Playing in a building lacking any semblance of energy because of what happened earlier Sunday afternoon in another sport, the Dallas Mavericks found enough strength and vitality to eke out a hard-fought 93-87 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.
The Mavs finished this three-game road trip 2-1 and will come home to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday with a 22-16 mark.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 29 points and seven rebounds, and Chandler Parsons scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Zaza Pachulia registered his 19th double-double of the season by halftime and finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
After the Minnesota Vikings dropped a 10-9 decision at home to Seattle earlier Sunday in a first-round NFL playoff game, there was little joy or noise at the Target Center on Sunday.
“It almost seemed like the crowd was stunned that the Vikings lost,” said Nowitzki, who was 12 of 22 from the field. “[Blair Walsh] missed a [27-yard] field goal for the win [with 22 seconds left] and that kind of took the energy out of the building a little bit.
“Sometimes we’d run a play or you called a defensive coverage, and it seemed like it was the only voice in this building. So on nights like that you got to create your own energy by talking, by the bench being into it and getting up on some big baskets and some big spots, and I thought we did enough of that tonight to get going.”
What the Mavs did best to get going was give the ball to Nowitzki and get out of his way. With the starting backcourt of Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews struggling to combine for just nine points on 3-of-18 shooting, it was Nowitzki who delivered and dragged the Mavs across the finish line.
“He played great, made a lot of shots, made a lot of big shots, and I thought he played a good all-around game as well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a guy that’s prepared himself for greatness virtually every night.
“One of the things we want to try to do is take some of the burden off of him, but there’s nights like tonight where it’s unavoidable. We’ve got to have him being No. 6 all time in scoring out there.”
Andrew Wiggins scored inside the paint as the Timberwolves (12-26) clawed within 85-81 of the Mavs with 1:50 left. Then, Nowitzki, the game’s No. 6 all-time leading scorer popped up and scored, was fouled, made the free throw, and the Mavs were suddenly ahead 88-81.
Wiggins scored again on the ensuing possession, but Williams barreled inside and scored on a high-arching shot to give Dallas a 90-83 lead with just 1:04 remaining in the game.
Williams, who was having problems with his (right) shooting arm after he collided with Milwaukee’s Greg Monroe on Friday, refused to blame the injury on his 2-of-10 shooting.
“It’s an off-night,” said Williams, with his arm heavily taped. “I just chalk it up as that.”
The Mavs fell behind 12-4, but picked up the pace and used nine points from Pachulia and seven from Nowitzki to forge a 22-22 tieafter the first quarter.
Dallas led 48-42 at intermission and used a late 12-1 run — sparked by former Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea — to enter the fourth quarter cradling a 68-55 lead.
As crunch time rolled around, Nowitzki stepped up and made sure this one was going to end on a positive note for the Mavs.
It was the second-best scoring night of the season for 37-year-old Nowitkzi, topped only by the 31 points he scored against the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 11.
“Most everything at some point goes through Dirk, and rightfully so,” said Matthews, who was 1-of-8 from the field and scored five points.
“And definitely when he had it going we’re going to try to find him, because he just makes the game easier if he’s got it going.”