DALLAS – By the end of the third quarter Saturday night, the Washington Wizards had already bolted ahead of the Dallas Mavericks, 90-71.
A 39-point outing in the third quarter helped the Wizards extend a one-point halftime lead to 19 going into the final quarter of a game Washington hung on to win, 114-111, at American Airlines Center.
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The Wizards converted 16-of-23 shots in the third quarter and went on to shoot holes through the Mavs’ defense to the tune of 51.8 percent form the game. Even little known Otto Porter Jr. had a field day against the Mavs as he erupted red for a career-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
Wizards center Marcin Gortat was critical of the defense Nowitzki played on Porter.
"With all due respect to Dirk, Dirk was defending (Porter) like he couldn’t shoot the ball,’’ Gortat said. "We told him to just keep shooting.
"If you’re going to miss, keep shooting. I’m glad he used this opportunity to be aggressive and he had a great game.’’
Add Porter’s game that to the 26 points and season-high 16 assists Washington got from point guard John Wall, and the Mavs had their hands full on a night when they dropped their third straight home game.
"They’ve got a great playmaker over there that makes a lot of things happen,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "Wall threw in some unbelievable shots.
"They had some guys that got in an amazing shot-making groove, and we allowed it. They’re a unique team, they’re very strong-will, they’re extremely well-coached.’’
The Mavs (13-11) used a zone defense to get back in the game. But Dirk Nowitzki’s 3-pointer at the buzzer which would have sent the game into overtime glanced off the front of the rim.
"We basically installed our zone defense during the game and that was effective because it changed the rhythm of the game a little bit,’’ Carlisle said. "But I think more than anything it got them out of their rhythm.
"But, look, you get down 21 in the second half, you’re a long shot to win a game no matter where you’re playing.’’
And after getting blitzed in the third quarter, the Mavs were a long shot to win Saturday.
"I’m not saying guys aren’t working hard by any means,’’ shooting guard Wesley Matthews said. "I know we’re working hard, but we need to work hard and get results.
"We’ve got to get it done.’’
Matthews certainly did his part, scoring a game-high 28 points. He made 10-of-17 shots, including 6-of-11 baskets from 3-point territory.
That came after Matthews buried the Wizards for a career-high tying 36 points when the Mavs won in Washington last Sunday, 116-104. In that game, Matthews tied a Mavs franchise record when he made 10 shots – in 17 attempts -- from 3-point land.
On Saturday, shot-making was the least of the Mavs’ problems. They know scoring 111 points, they’ll probably win most games.
Yet it was their defense that let the Mavs’ down.
"We can do better (on defense), there’s no question about that,’’ Carlisle said. "I’ve got to look at the film – that’s not a cop-out.
"We’re a start-to-finish team. It’s one of those things we’ve got to be real solid at the beginning of games and that’s going to put us in a solid position at the end.’’
The Mavs led 28-26 after the first quarter, but trailed 51-50 at the half. Then came that disastrous third quarter when the bottom fell out of the Mavs’ defense.
"Everybody is out here working hard,’’ Matthews said. "Both teams are working hard.
"It has to get done and we’re capable of doing it. We’ve done it.’’
But the Mavs didn’t to it on Saturday.
"I think (the Wizards) deserve a lot of credit for this, but we all own it,’’ Carlisle said. "We all own the loss and we all own the lapses and everything else.
"This is a difficult period we’re going through.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com