No matter what, it was going to be a tough hill to climb for the Dallas Mavericks to push their way into the final playoff spot in the West. Considering their remaining schedule, coupled with their offensive struggles as of late, and the success of the teams they are competing with for said spot, a lot of breaks were going to have to fall their way.
But sometimes, you make your own breaks.
After Wednesday night’s 112-107 comeback win at the Washington Wizards — a shocker in most every way — Dallas’ playoff hopes are still hanging on by a thread.
“It’s an NBA game. It’s 48 minutes, and you’ve got to keep playing,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “If you keep playing against any team in this league, you’ll give yourself a chance. Our guys showed a lot of resilience tonight doing that — hanging in, getting to the fourth quarter and giving ourselves a chance.”
The Wizards have been one of the NBA’s hottest teams since they got off to their inconsistent start to the season. John Wall and Bradley Beal have both been playing All-Star level basketball, and the emergence of Otto Porter, and newly acquired Bojan Bogdanovic, have made the Wizards an extremely formidable lineup to contend with.
More than that, in his first season as the head coach, Scott Brooks has done a tremendous job helping this group of players come together after the inconsistent tenure of Randy Wittman.
The Wizards were led by a hobbled Wall’s 26 points and 11 assists, as well as Beal’s 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting. Porter had 14 points. Bogdanovic added 19 off the bench in 24 minutes of action.
Based on those performances, Washington was able to build a double-digit lead in the second half, and had Dallas on the ropes. Thanks to a brilliant fourth quarter, however, the Mavs were able to make a push, and pull ahead of the Eastern Conference standouts.
After a few inconsistencies over the last few games, Dallas had solid contributions from Harrison Barnes (22) and Seth Curry (19), who were the team’s leaders in scoring. Curry had really struggled as of late, amassing just eight points over the previous two games. Here, he was able to find his shooting stroke, much to the elation of MFFL everywhere.
Dirk Nowitzki also added 20 points, as he continues to prove that he has aged like a fine wine. Or a mailed potato.
The Mavs welcomed back Nerlens Noel (knee), and though he was largely ineffective on the boards, coming up with just three rebounds, he was able to add some key buckets throughout the game, including a late dunk to put the Mavs up 12 with just under five minutes to go. (Wesley Matthews’ calf prevented him from playing.)
J.J. Barea was also key for the Mavs, off the pine, despite struggling from the field. He added a season-high 13 assists, and was a stabilizing force in the Mavs backcourt.
Finally, rookie Nicolas Brussino, who has been quiet for most of the year, added 11 points off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting (3-of-4 from downtown),in what was easily the best performance of his young pro career. Dallas can use all the help it can get in the deep=ball department, and Brussino came up big in the area here.
“Brussino came up big for us and hit some big shots,’’ Dirk said. “He was fired up.’’
In total, lots of "Dirkie'' candidates for you to vote on.
The win moves Dallas to 29-38 overall on the season, and one step closer to catching the Denver Nuggets in the eight seed, though Denver was off on Wednesday night. It also moved them ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who fell on the road to the Boston Celtics.
In short, while it looked like bad news for the Mavs for a while, those metaphorical chips found their way onto the Mavs side, and for now, keeps their playoff hopes alive for a little while longer.
“We desperately needed this game,’’ Carlisle said, “with what has transpired the last two games to get ourselves back in the mix. Our guys knew it, and it’s tough when you don’t have Matthews to throw out there against Beal and Wall and Bogdanovic and Porter. But we played tough.’’