Dallas Mavericks Get it Done at Home
Boy does that home cookin’ taste great.
I must admit, I was a little pessimistic after the Dallas Mavericks’ two previous lame showings in New Orleans. It was only because I knew that this team wasn’t playing at a level even close to what they are capable of. They lacked intensity and were letting Chris Paul take total control of this series.
That finally changed on Friday, as the Mavericks took Game 3 over the Hornets, 97-87, getting themselves right back into their first round best-of-seven series.
With the home crowd behind them the Mavericks looked like a new team, harassing Paul and David West and playing with much more confidence in every area. Johnson made some beneficial lineup and game plan changes, inserting Jason Terry into the starting lineup for the ineffective Jerry Stackhouse and letting the quicker JET guard Paul. Terry responded with 22 points and six assists and did an admiral job defensively in trying to deny CP3 from getting into the paint. Paul tallied his third straight double-double but was held to only 16 points on 4-of-18 shooting.
The Mavs also did a great job getting to the free throw line (38 attempts), converting in transition (23 fast break points) and holding the Hornets to only 38% shooting. Dirk Nowitzki was in MVP form, notching a game-high 32 points and 19 rebounds, and helping to hold David West to only 14 points off 6-of-20 shooting. Jason Kidd had some spring in his step as well, contributing eight points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. Josh Howard added 18 but shot only 5-of-16 amid some pre-game scrutiny over his public admission of his affinity for smoking marijuana during the offseason.
Despite the pre-game attention, the Mavericks refused to let the Hornets continue to run them off the floor. Late in the fourth quarter with the game in Dallas’ hands, Paul tried driving to the rim only to be knocked to the deck by the waiting Erick Dampier. Damp drew a flagrant foul but certainly sent a message to Paul and the Hornets that the abuse wouldn’t be tolerated.
The play was a microcosm of how Dallas wanted to force the issue with physical defense, rebounding and hustle on both ends of the floor. Damp and Brandon Bass combined for eight offensive rebounds, and Kidd also came out of nowhere to snatch a couple boards out of David West’s hands on a few occasions. Nowitzki also played some solid low-post defense in addition to his spectacular offensive output.
Whether they can sustain this energy and momentum once the series shifts back to New Orleans will determine if they end their season early for the second straight year or move on to likely play the San Antonio Spurs. Dallas got the much-needed win and certainly played better, but they didn’t play a perfect game and were unable to close out the Hornets until the final minutes. Still, it’s all about taking this thing one game at a time, and it looks like the Mavs are doing that. Enjoy the win for now, but there’s still work to be done as Game 4 is set for Sunday night.