Mavs Get Back On Track in 129-103 Win Over 76ers
Desperately needing to add another W into the win column, the Mavs hosted the league's worst team in the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Following a less-than-stellar effort against the Orlando Magic just two nights prior, it was imperative for the Mavs to get off on the right foot against a young Sixers team, which gives maximum effort night in and night out. Luckily for the Mavs, Jahlil Okafor’s big night wouldn’t be enough, as the Mavs cruised to a 129-103 win in the first game of their six-game home stand.
“This is an important win for us; it stopped the bleeding,” Rick Carlisle said in part reflecting on a sky-is-falling loss at Orlando in his club's previous outing. “It was a tough, very tough first half, but in the second quarter we got some traction.”
Things were looking a bit grim early for Dallas, which fell behind early due in large part to an 18-point first quarter from Okafor. The rookie did just about anything he wanted to do all night long, as he showed his ability to go beast mode at will. Okafor has an extremely bright future in this league if he can keep his head on straight, but that’s something that the young big man is having trouble figuring out early in his career. Unfortunately for Philly, outside of Okafor, there is a serious lack of offensive talent on their roster, and he can’t do it all on his own.
Offensively, Dallas caught fire after the first quarter, scoring a season-high 66 points in the first half of the game. Wes Matthews (21 points) in particular really settled in, and gave the Mavs the consistency on the offensive end of the floor that they have been sorely lacking over the last couple of weeks.
“I was playing basketball. Tried not to get frustrated and tried not force anything. Just playing within myself and my shot finally started coming around,” Wes Matthews said. “My shot finally started dropping. I did a little adjusting but the biggest thing is that you just want to stay positive and stay confident.”
Speaking of offensive consistency, early in the third quarter, Dirk Nowitzki nailed a straight-away three to give him more than 29,000 points in his legendary career. Dirk currently sits behind Wilt Chamberlin, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (he of "One-Trick-Pony'' fame as a Dirk critic) for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
ESPN is under the impression that the Big German is the 17th best player in NBA history, but in our some-what biased opinion, there is no way that 16 players sit above His Dirkness in the NBA’s hierarchy. It’s hard to find another player with Dirk’s class on and off the court who has been as consistently productive as he has over the last 17 years, and who has been as selfless as he has been over that time. Suffice it to say, he’s a legend.
“It’s another amazing achievement in just an amazing career. I don’t know if we’ll really be able to put all of this in perspective until he’s gone and we see how different it’s going to be,” Carlisle said of his star player. “We hope that that doesn’t happen for quite a while. He’s one of the most special people and players I’ve ever been around in 32-and-a-half years in this league. Just remarkable longevity, sustained greatness, great teammate – the whole deal.”
The Mavs, who have struggled from the free-throw line over the last few outings, were able to rectify that in a big way on Sunday. The Mavs ended the game shooting 34-of-36 from the charity stripe, getting to the line early and often. The Mavs stellar free-throw shooting helped them pull away in the second quarter, and they never looked back.
Despite all of the offensive firepower, and season-high 129 points from the guys wearing throwback green, a big part of the Mavs' success against Philadelphia was their defensive effort on everyone not name Jahlil Okafor. It became clear early on that the Mavs would have a hard time slowing down Okafor, but their ability to minimize the damage from other areas was a big key. Okafor finished the game with 31 points and eight rebounds, but Philadelphia just doesn’t have the consistent offensive threats in their arsenal to keep up with a team like the Mavs when they are playing like this, and it showed in the end.
As Okafor said: “We obviously had a hard time stopping them. They are a veteran team and they played a really good game. They got to the foul line all night. I think they shot 34 of 36 from the free throw line. I know they got me in foul trouble. They are just a really good vet team and that showed up tonight. That’s what we aspire to be one day.”
Added Sixers coach Brett Brown: "They picked us apart. They have high-IQ players.''
This win could not have come at a better time for the Mavs, who 48 hours ago, seemed to be circling the drain in the Western Conference playoff race. While it’s worth noting that a win over the Philadelphia 76ers isn’t much to brag about, the Mavs needed this one bad, and perhaps a win like this one could help Rick Carlisle’s bunch gain some much needed momentum and confidence moving forward. And with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder coming to town on Wednesday night, the Mavs needed one to go their way. Maybe the acquisition of David Lee (with John Jenkins the odd-man out, as DB.com has noted) will be a boost for the 30-27 sixth-place Mavs.
“We have to turn it up. We have to work. We can control our own destiny,” said Matthews, one of the candidates for the Player of the Game "Dirkie'' (you vote here and discuss on DB.com Boards!). “It’s tight on the bottom and that’s not anywhere where we want to be. We let a couple of games get away from from us and we have to correct that moving forward.”