In the wake of their where-did-that-come-from 107-96 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena, the Dallas Mavericks were impressed with the way center Zaza Pachulia took his demotion.
With the Mavericks trying whatever was necessary to pull out a much-needed victory, a healthy Pachulia was replaced in the starting lineup by guard Raymond Felton.
The move paid off as the Mavericks received more ball movement and were able to snap their season-high five-game losing streak against a Hornets team that came in as the hottest team in the NBA with seven straight wins.
Pachulia only played 6 minutes and didn’t enter the game for the first time until there was 5:07 remaining in the third quarter and with the Mavericks ahead 60-51.
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"He hopped up there and went out and played 6 hard minutes and was ready if we needed him again,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "He’s the best, and I thought his minutes out there were very important minutes.
"It just goes to show the kind of leader he is on this team. The message to everybody this morning --- and we talked about everything – is regardless of what we’re doing with the star\ting lineup, we need everybody.’’
Pachulia finished the game with two points and two rebounds. But all he cared about was that the Mavericks (34-33) were able to collect their first victory since a March 1 win over Orlando.
"I’ve known Zaza for years now, and he’s a professional and he’s going to give us what he’s got,’’ said guard Devin Harris, who scored 12 points. "Obviously, it’s a tough blow moving to the bench, but he’s not going to let that affect how he affects the team.
"Sometimes you just got to shake it up and change things up, and you’ve got to see what happens.’’
Pachulia was on board conveying that message loud and clear.
"It’s a tough stretch for us,’’ Pachulia said. "I think I mentioned to you guys after the last game (Saturday against Indiana) that hopefully the road trip was the solution for us to get back on track.
"I kind of had the feeling that the road trip would help us, and that’s what happened.’’
That, and the nice wrinkle Carlisle produced with the lineup change.
"Nothing against nobody on the team,’’ said Felton, who recorded nine points and a season-high 12 assists. "It’s just sometimes when you lose five in a row, sometimes you’ve got to switch things up to muck it up a little bit and see what happens, and that’s what happened.
"It’s not necessarily just the lineup. It helps when you’ve got four guys out there that can run the ball. The ball was just moving and we were just attacking the lane and getting shots -- it was good and we were having fun.’’
Dirk Nowitzki, who started at center and finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, likes the versatility the small lineup gave the team. But he knows that lineup can’t be effectively employed against every team.
"With me at (center), it’s a tough lineup,’’ Nowitzki said. "With putting Ray in there, it’s another ball handler, another driver who gets in the lane.
"I think there are some nights the small lineups are great and there’s some nights it’s just not going to work. I think we’ve got to be flexible with what we’re doing and adjust from night-to-night, and we’ve got to find ways to win.’’
And that’s exactly what the Mavericks did Monday. They blew a 52-33 halftime lead and were down two early in the fourth quarter, but found a way to win.
"That’s what we did earlier in the year,’’ Nowitzki said. "We’re a veteran team that’s got to close games better than we have lately, and just find ways to win.
"With whatever lineup we throw out there, we’ve got to make it work.’’
The Mavericks made it work against the Hornets (37-29). Now it’s on to Cleveland for the finale of this two-game road trip on Wednesday night.
"Moving forward, who knows what it will be,’’ Harris said of the starting lineup. "Like (Carlisle) said, we’ve just got to stay ready, guys have got to come out with a ton energy, and I thought we did that tonight.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com