In one of the wackiest games in recent years, the Dallas Mavericks played some unusual lockdown defense Friday night at American Airlines Arena while also finally working their way into the win column again.
Charlie Villanueva came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points and the Mavs snapped a season-high four-game losing streak by upending the Miami Heat 93-72 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,823. The win increased the Mavs’ record to 31-17 and was the 600th of coach Rick Carlisle’s illustrious career.
It was a game where points were difficult to come by for the most part. But the Mavs put up a stifling defense, going on an eye-popping 37-2 run while breaking the Heat’s spirit.
“We score the ball with the best of them,” said center Tyson Chandler, who registered his 20th double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. “But the thing that I appreciated about tonight is we played incredible defense the entire game.
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“Not one or two quarters, but the entire game. And that’s the only reason why we were able to get this win tonight.”
The Mavs played without starting small forward Chandler Parsons, who had an illness that cropped up after Friday morning’s shootaround.
But with their much beleaguered bench outscoring the Heat reserves 47-26, the Mavs were able to overcome a 16-point third-quarter deficit and win a game against a Heat squad that played without injured starters Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng.
Early on, it looked like a game between some fellows in a park as neither team could find the rim.
The Mavs started the game 4 of 25 from the field before hitting three in a row, and Miami started out 8 of 35, but managed to assume a 45-33 lead at the half.
However, with Villanuvea scoring 11 of his points in the fourth period, the Mavs got on a hot streak and kept the pressure on the Heat.
“We definitely needed some shot-making there in the second half at some point to get over the hump,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who collected 12 points and six rebounds. “We weren’t going to win this game scoring 33 in the second half, so we needed to make up some points.
“And it was great to see Charlie stepping in.”
Villanueva converted 7 of 15 shots, including 6 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc.
He helped counter the early salvo by Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, who finished with 16 points and 24 rebounds.
A 3-pointer by Devin Harris and Villanueva, a tip-in by Chandler, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Villanueva and J.J. Barea powered the Mavs to an 88-62 lead and put the finishing touches on that massive 37-2 run.
“I just felt good, my teammates found me and we ended up spreading the floor,” Villanueva said. “We were struggling that first half offensively, but defensively I think we played pretty well.
“So we knew coming into the second half that our shots would start falling in. When Coach made that decision to put me at center or Dirk at center — we’re both shooters, we ended up spreading the floor —and it worked out for us.”
It also worked out for Carlisle on his fifth attempt to become the 24th coach in NBA history to win as many as 600 games.
“The only thing I was ever concerned with was getting the 31st win — that’s the only thing that matters to our team right now,” Carlisle said. “We needed to get off the schneid, and when it gets hard it really gets hard.
“It gets hard to the point where you’re down 16 in the second half on the road on national TV, it tests your belief in each other and everything else, and everybody stayed strong, everybody kept believing. We got the monkey off our back for the moment, but we’ve got to regroup and get ready for tomorrow.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760