Since hitting rock bottom with a 22-point loss in Sacramento a week ago, the Dallas Mavericks have played some of their best basketball of the season.
The Mavs’ spirited play continued Sunday afternoon when they won a defensive-minded slugfest over the Minnesota Timberwolves 88-78 before 16,117 at the Target Center.
We did a great job defensively and everybody was involved. I thought our team defense and our collective will carried us because we were having a rough night shooting the ball.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Mavs and the fourth straight time they’ve held an opponent under 90 points.
“We did a great job defensively and everybody was involved,” coach Rick Carlisle said after the Mavs improved to 39-38. “I thought our team defense and our collective will carried us because we were having a rough night shooting the ball.
“When you’re having a rough night shooting the ball, the only thing that’s going to hold you in NBA games is the ability to get stops.”
When the Mavs finished the third quarter with an 11-4 run and opened the fourth period with a 15-2 run, they went from being down 59-57 to clutching a comfortable 83-65 lead midway through the fourth quarter. During that stage, the Timberwolves were 2-of-11 from the field with two turnovers against the Mavs’ stingy defense.
Wesley Matthews (19 points) hit three 3-pointers in the final four minutes of the third quarter and rookie Justin Anderson spearheaded the surge in the fourth quarter. Anderson had a steal, a dunk, a finger roll and a sky-walking blocked shot on Gorgui Dieng, all in the first five minutes of the fourth period.
“I’m just trying to keep playing hard,” said Anderson, who collected nine points and a season-high 10 rebounds. “I’m just trying to do the little things and be the glue to help this team to continue to roll.”
Early on, the Mavs had some serious issues trying to get on a roll. Minnesota led 19-12 primarily because it held a 10-0 edge in rebounds.
The Mavs didn’t get their first rebound until reserve center David Lee saved a ball from going out of bounds with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter. But the feisty Mavs stayed with it and outrebounded the Timberwolves 44-41.
We’re using my strengths to my advantage and using the pick-and-roll. I’m attacking the paint and looking for my shot to get somebody open.
J.J. Barea, who led the Mavericks with 21 points
Minnesota led 27-22 after the first quarter when J.J. Barea kept the struggling Mavs’ offense in the game by scoring 11 of his team-high 21 points.
“We’re using my strengths to my advantage and using the pick-and-roll,” said Barea, who also finished with six assists. “I’m attacking the paint and looking for my shot to get somebody open.
“But also our defense is picking up. I think we’re a little bit more aggressive on defense.”
The Mavs held Minnesota to 40.8 percent shooting and scored 20 points off 18 turnovers by the Timberwolves. Dallas’ defense was so effective that it mattered not that the Mavs shot just 38.6 percent from the field and Dirk Nowitzki was just 4-of-18 from the floor and scored only 13 points.
Nowitzki also picked up just four rebounds in 33 minutes, but playfully blamed that on Anderson.
“Ever since he’s started playing, my rebounds have come down,” Nowitzki said. “He’s getting them on another level where I can’t go to. I’m yelling at him to stay out.”
With a huge home game Wednesday against Houston, the Mavs are hopeful games such as the one they played against Sacramento are long gone.
“The season is full of highs and lows, and obviously that was a low point for us with the guys that we have out,” said Devin Harris, who scored 16 points. “But with the guys that we do have we’re just playing hard and trying to live with the results.
“I think everybody just sort of looked in the mirror and looked at what they can do to help the team.”