Seemingly swimming in shark-infested waters for nearly the past two weeks, the Dallas Mavericks finally made a big splash Monday night.
Facing the hottest team in the NBA while looking like a fish out of water recently, the Mavs paddled their way to an improbable 107-96 triumph over the red-hot Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The victory snapped the Mavs’ season-high five-game losing streak and broke the Hornets’ seven-game winning streak. Both streaks were the longest in the NBA entering Monday.
We changed the lineup because we needed a shakeup of some kind. Everything’s on the table in the game.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on starting Raymond Felton at guard instead of center Zaza Pachulia
Dallas went with a different lineup, sitting center Zaza Pachulia and starting guard Raymond Felton. That gave the Mavs another ballhandler, and set the stage where the ball was zipping around the perimeter quicker than it had been during the losing streak.
“We changed the lineup because we needed a shakeup of some kind,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Everything’s on the table in the game.”
This was a game where the Mavs were feistier, more determined and played with a passion not seen since they last won 121-108 over Orlando on March 1.
“When you lose five games in a row you feel like the world’s ending and anything you do is going wrong,” said Chandler Parsons, who scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “This was probably the hottest team in the NBA coming in tonight, so we knew we had a big challenge and everyone stepped up and played together and we needed this win.”
The win didn’t come easy and the Mavs knew it wouldn’t. Behind 14 points from Dirk Nowitzki, 12 from Devin Harris and 10 from David Lee, Dallas forged ahead 52-33 at intermission.
But the Hornets kept chipping away until they took their first lead at 73-71 with 10:18 remaining following a pair of free throws by Kemba Walker to end a 40-19 run by Charlotte.
However, with Deron Williams scoring 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and Parsons adding 11 over the final 12 minutes, the Mavs were able to push their record above .500 at 34-33.
“Being in foul trouble takes your momentum away, takes your aggression away,” Williams said. “I picked up three [fouls] early in the first half and then came right out early in the third and picked up my fourth.
“It just kind of messes with you mentally, but in the fourth quarter I was able to shrug it off and get free a little bit and get going and contribute.”
After Williams scored six straight points, Felton, who grew up nearby, also was able to shrug off a bad shooting night and made a 3-pointer that increased the Mavs’ lead to 98-85 with 3:18 left.
“Coach pulled me to the side after he took me out one time and he said, ‘You’re due for a big shot, keep taking the shot, you’re due for one, you’re going to hit one,’ ’’ said Felton, who finished with nine points and a season-high 12 assists. “When I hit it we kind of laughed at each other and he was, ‘Like I told you.’
“I said, ‘You’re right, coach.’ ”
A lot of stuff went right for the Mavs. Even their defensive approach soared to new heights against the tough-minded Hornets.
I said all along we’re a dangerous team if we’re right, if we play together, if we get some stops, if we rebound.
Charlotte had scored 100-plus points in seven consecutive games, including three in which they scored 122 or more.
But the Mavs buckled up and snapped a stretch where they had allowed 100 or more points in 13 straight games.
“I said all along we’re a dangerous team if we’re right, if we play together, if we get some stops, if we rebound,” said Nowitzki, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds while starting at center. “If we’re sharing the ball, if we make some shots, we can still be a tough team.”
Monday night, the Mavs were tough enough to snap their five-game losing streak.