WASHINGTON – Extremely confident in his shot-making abilities, Wesley Matthews’ teammates already knew it was only a matter of time before he started burning up the nets.
That time came Sunday night during the Dallas Mavericks’ 116-104 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Matthews made 12-of-23 shots, including 10-of-17 baskets from 3-point range, while scoring a career-high tying 36 points. The 10 3-pointers are both a personal high and ties the Mavs’ franchise high that was previously held solely by George McCloud.
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More importantly, the red-hot shooting got Matthews out of a deep funk that reached a crescendo Friday when he made just 1-of-9 shots and tallied five points during a 100-96 loss to the Houston Rockets. Matthews spent the balance of Friday’s postgame ripping himself and criticizing everything about his offensive game.
No such criticism, however, took place after Matthews set the nets on fire against the Wizards.
"We were all excited for him,’’ said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 19 points. "He’s a guy that just relentlessly works for the team.
"He always has to guard the best offensive player on the other team, and you’re just happy for a guy like that who puts the team first and works so hard, and just hasn’t been able to break through with his shooting. But he was on a roll tonight’’
While going on the offensive Sunday, Matthews scored 14 points in the third quarter and added another 14 points in the fourth quarter. Simply put, the seven-year veteran shooting guard turned this arena into his personal shooting gallery.
So much so that when Matthews entered the zone -- in the second half – that all players covet -- the entire bench kept standing up and roaring with approval with each shot that found its mark.
"It felt like everything he was shooting was going to go in,’’ Nowitzki said. "It was fun to be a part of."
It undoubtedly was fun, too, for Matthews, who is having the worst shooting percentages from the field and from 3-point range in his career. But tonight, all of that misery was an after-thought because of his torrid display against the Wizards.
"My teammates were finding me and it was one of those where the same shots that I’ve been shooting and missing were falling tonight,’’ Matthews said. "They kept finding me and I kept letting them fly.’’
Matthews underwent surgery on his left Achilles back on Mar. 11 while he was playing for Portland, and then signed a four-year, $70 million free agent contract with the Mavs in July. But he will be the first to admit that, offensively, the Mavs haven’t gotten their money’s worth out of him.
However, just the fact that Matthews labored so hard during his rehabilitation period, and surprisingly was on the court on opening day, that let the Mavs know he takes his job serious.
"What he’s doing is extremely difficult – coming back from (the Achilles surgery) on this timetable is hard,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "He’s had a rough go here, and the important thing is we all kept encouraging him and we have a great deal of belief in him.
"The truth is along the way there’s going to be some nights like this and there’s going to be some nights like (Friday) night. He’s just got to keep staying the course and seeing the light, because at the end of this process he’s going to be a better player than he was when he went down last March. I'm not only confident of it, I'm certain of it."
Chandler Parsons missed Sunday’s game because he’s not yet playing both ends of a back-to-back. But he will be on the floor – in a sixth man role – when the Mavs face the New York Knicks at 6:30 Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
In the meantime, Parsons enjoyed his front row seat watching Matthews put on a shooting clinic.
"I told you guys the other night when he said all those (critical) things (about himself),’’ Parsons said. "We believe in him and we know what he can do.
"He affects the game in so many other ways, but he has the potential to explodes and have the impact like this on any given night. I’m happy for him and knowing him he’s not going to get complacent – he’s going to want to do it again.’’
While the countless praises kept coming his way, Matthews indeed had his mind squarely on the Knicks. He had, in his mind, put the game against the Wizards behind him.
That game, according to Matthews, was old news, and the chapters had been finished and to be read on another day.
"Again, I’ve still got to do it again tomorrow,’’ Matthews said. "I’m not saying I’ve got to go make 10 threes or whatever tomorrow.
"But I have to be effective and shots have to fall and I’ve still got to be aggressive. It might not be the three (point shot) tomorrow – maybe slashing and attacking and making plays other ways.’’
Or maybe it will be another lights-out 3-point exhibition performed again by Matthews. For now, at least on Sunday night, Matthews wouldn’t have to beat himself up about letting the Mavs down on the offensive end of the court.
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com