Desperation suits the Dallas Mavericks.
Armed with a lineup tweak, an aggressive game plan and huge runs to end the second and fourth quarters, the Mavericks finally put a bandage on their hemorrhaging season with a 107-96 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
The Mavs (34-33) desperately needed this victory after a five-game losing streak slid them down to eighth place in the Western Conference. After their loss to Indiana on Saturday, head coach Rick Carlisle said lineup changes might have to be made, and while he made just one to the starting lineup, it made a significant impact.
"We need everybody,'' Carlisle said. "We changed the lineup, because we just needed a shakeup of some kind, but everything is on the table game to game. Our guys stepped up and showed a lot of guts.”
Carlisle moved Raymond Felton into the starting lineup, giving the Mavs a three-guard alignment to start the game with Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews. The odd man out was Zaza Pachulia, who did not start in favor of Dirk Nowitzki at the center position.
Largely the changes worked. Felton went to the basket all evening, dishing out a game-high 12 assists while scoring nine points. That freed up scoring chances for forward Chandler Parsons, who scored a team-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers. Williams added 15 points. Nowitzki played just 28 minutes, but put together an efficient double-double, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Additionally, the Mavs' bench came through with energy and production. David Lee pitched in 12 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Guard Devin Harris scored 12 points in 21 minutes, including a hot stretch in the second quarter. The same went for rookie guard Justin Anderson, who provided a jolt for the Mavs in the second quarter. He only scored a point, but he grabbed three rebounds, dished out an assist, registered a steal and blocked a shot in eight high-energy minutes.
Armed with that energy from Felton, Harris and Anderson, the Mavericks built a 19-point halftime lead, sparked by a dominant second quarter. Up 22-18 after 12 minutes, the Mavericks outscored the Hornets (37-29) 30-15 to grab a 52-33 lead.
If the Mavs had hopes of cruising to a win the Hornets erased them in the third quarter, outscoring Dallas 32-19 to cut Dallas' lead to 71-65. Kemba Walker (25 points) and Nicolas Batum (20 points) had a lot to do with Charlotte's surge, and that carried over into the fourth quarter. When Walker drained a pair of free throws to give Charlotte a 73-71 lead with 10:18 left in the game that seemed to jolt the Mavs out of their quarter-long malaise.
Matthews answered right away with a 3-pointer off a Parsons dish. Charlotte came down on its next possession and regained the lead on Al Jefferson's jumper, but Nowitzki followed with a jumper with 9:32 left in the game to give Dallas the lead for good. From there the Mavs went on a 31-21 run to end the game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Williams and Parsons, the latter coming with 7:52 left and giving Dallas an 84-79 lead, seemed to solidify Dallas' hold on the game.
Meanwhile, Pachulia's slide down the Mavericks' bench continued, as he played just six minutes, all coming in the third quarter. He ended up with two points and two rebounds. Monday's game was the fifth in the last nine that Pachulia has played fewer than 20 minutes, the result of additional reliance on Lee in the frontcourt.
But however they did it ... they did it.
"It was good, and we were having fun,'' Felton said. "When you lose five in a row, sometimes you have to switch things up to muck it up a little bit and see what happens. And that’s what happened. It got us a W, and now we go from here.”
Dallas remains on the road and travels to Cleveland on Wednesday.