Facing possibly the toughest back-to-back of any team in the NBA this season, the Dallas Mavericks came into Sunday night’s game as 10-points-plus underdogs to the Spurs in San Antonio. With Deron Williams and J.J. Barea out, Wes Matthews hobbled, and Rick Carlisle starting a free agent on a 10-day contract at point guard, things were not trending in the Mavs favor.
It may sound cliche, but this game was the prime example of why the game is played on the court, and not on paper, as the Mavs walked into San Antonio and stole one from the Spur,s 105-101, ending a 12-game losing streak at the AT&T Center that dated back to 2010.
“It’s definitely been too long,'' said Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas-at-Spurs win drought. "But you know how it is with every streak. Eventually it ends. I’m just proud of the guys. We just battled.''
Seth Curry finished a fantastic outing, by leading the team with a career-high 24 points, five assists and 10 rebounds (also a career-high) while shooting 10-20 from the field, and 4-9 from three. Curry also led the Mavs in minutes with season-high 37 in a true Dirkie-worthy performance. (Yes, you get to vote here!)
“It’s big,” Curry said of the win. “We were pretty confident coming in. And we knew if we just played 48 minutes of good basketball, we’d have a chance at the end.''
Said Dirk: "Seth was incredible.''
Harrison Barnes was big down the stretch for Dallas, and ended up with 19 points on 8-20 shooting from the floor. Barnes had six of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, all of which came at a crucial time in the game. From the 7:13 mark, to the 3:47 mark, Barnes was 3-4 from the floor, and helped keep the desperate spurs at bay with some big buckets.
Nowitzki also had a nice game with 15 points, 10 boards, and four blocks in 28 minutes, while Wes Matthews finished with 17 points on 60-percent shooting.
The real hero of the game for the Mavs, however, might have been brand-new free-agent signee Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell, formerly of the Long Island Nets of the D-League, who officially inked his 10-day contract a little more than 24 hours before game time, was asked to start against and defend the combination of Tony Parker and Patty Mills, in addition to playing a 36 minutes of game time.
Ferrell (the Mavs roster replacement for another diminutive D-Leaguer, Pierre Jackson, who was on his second 10-day when he injured a hamstring) more than held his own, finishing the game with nine points, seven assists, two steals, and (perhaps most importantly) ZERO turnovers. Ferrell took care of the ball and found open guys for solid looks all night long. He also knocked down two big free throws in the closing seconds of regulation, to keep the game out of reach of the Spurs.
Said Yogi: “It was definitely very eye-opening for me. When Coach told me I was going to start, my mind switched and I made sure I was ready. I was looking over all the plays, defensive coverages and personnel. Anything I could do for myself to make sure I was as prepared for the game as possible.”
Speaking of the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard led the team with 24 points and seven rebounds in 37 minutes, going 7-17 from the floor. Leonard is a superstar, maybe a top-five NBA player. The fact the Mavs were able to hold him in check as well as they did speaks volumes for the defensive effort and the coaching job the Carlisle is doing right now.
Outside of Leonard, however, the Spurs largely struggled to get any kind of offense going throughout the game. LaMarcus Aldridge and Parker (who was dynamite in the first half), finished with 16 points apiece, while Mills and Manu Ginobili chipped in 14 and 10 off the bench, respectively.
In the end, perhaps the biggest difference in the game was free-throw shooting. The Mavs finished 15-16 (93.8-percent) from the line, while San Antonio was 15-23 (65.2-percent).
Why is this such a shock, you may ask?
Coming into the game, San Antonio was, statistically, the best free-throw shooting team in the NBA at 81.8 percent per on the year. The Mavs are also near the top of the NBA in that category at 79.8 percent, but the Spurs struggles from the stripe here were more than puzzling. Additionally, when the Spurs get ahead at home by double-digits, they never lose. Seriously -- they'd won 117 straight home games when getting ahead by 10 or more by halftime ... until now.
"There's no quit in us,'' Matthews said. "We're gonna fight. We're gonna fight.''
After this win the Mavs, now 17-30 and just 4.5 games out of the eight-spot in the playoff hunt, the fight continues as Dallas must get ready to host LeBron (Give me a F’ing playmaker) James, Kyrie Irving, and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Monday night. The Cavs have struggled as of late, and will be missing Kevin Love, who injured his back against the Thunder on Sunday.