The Dallas Mavericks only had to endure a one-year hiccup in regards to missing the playoffs. In dramatic fashion, Dallas got a big win over Phoenix. They mainly did it with defense down the stretch. With a lead dwindling down, Eric Bledsoe drove to the rim. He had a clear path the rim and a basket would have tied the game with just 12 seconds left in regulation. As he got to the rim, he was met by Brandan Wright, who delivered a tremendously athletic block that helped secure the victory.
With the win, Dallas clinched a playoff birth. The Mavericks will be making their 19th trip to the postseason (and their 13th in the last 14 years). Their magic number for the 7th seed is now down to one. They will now have three days off before their finale against the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis has two more games before the game on Wednesday (at Lakers, at Phoenix, hosting the Mavericks. If the Grizzlies lose any of those two games prior to Wednesday, the Mavericks will claim the 7th spot.
Monta Ellis tallied a season-high-tying (game-high) 37 points, including 23 in the second half, to go along with four rebounds, five assists and two steals in 43 minutes (Ellis also had 37 vs. Houston on Nov. 20). It marked his fifth game with 30-plus points this season (4-1 record).
After starting 1-of-6 from the field, Dirk Nowitzki went 7-of-10 from the field (3-of-4 from deep) in the second half and scored 21 of his 23 points after intermission. He added eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 39 minutes. Nowitzki scored 20-plus points for the ninth time in his last 13 games (47th time this season). Dallas improved to 30-17 this year when he scores at least 20 points.
Ellis (23) and Nowitzki (21) combined for 44 of Dallas’ 55 second-half points. The Mavericks outscored the Suns 55-44 in the second half. They combined for 25 of Dallas’ 29 third-quarter points. Both Nowitzki and Ellis were on the floor for all 12 minutes in the third. The Mavericks outshot the Suns 62.5 percent (10-of-16) to 42.1 percent (8-of-19) from the field in the third quarter and outscored Phoenix 29-21 in the period. Team Have It All, indeed.
Wright notched his second double-double of the season (sixth career) with 12 points, a season-high (game-high) 11 rebounds and three blocks in 31 minutes (previous high: 10 rebounds vs. Sacramento Jan. 31).
Vince Carter passed Adrian Dantley (23,177) for 25th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a 3-pointer at the 9:24 mark of the second quarter (the basket gave him eight points for the game and 23,179 for his career). Carter finished with 10 points on the night and now has 23,181 career points. Robert Parish ranks 24th in career scoring with 23,334 points.
Dallas trailed by 13 (69-56) midway through the third quarter, but closed the period on a 19-9 run to cut the Suns’ lead to three (78-75) going into the fourth.
There was a scare late in the game. With a little less than three minutes remaining, Nowitzki rolled his left ankle when Gerald Green stepped on it. Nowitzki was limping during the remainder of the possession and had to check out at the next dead ball. He walked along the end of the bench and felt like he was good enough to finish the game out. The rubber ankle seems to be fine and he’s not concerned about missing the finale on Wednesday.
Here is the quote board for the big victory over Phoenix.
On the win: “The reason we won is because we had one of the best players on the planet in Dirk. And, because Monta Ellis, at the time we needed him most, stepped up and played his biggest game of the year. And, he had to play the whole second half – we couldn’t get him out of the game. Those two guys led the way and then a couple stops at the end – Wright with a block, good positioning, and just holding the line when they made the run. It’s pretty clear we are not a perfect team, but with our imperfections we have to have an understanding that we really need each other and that kicked in in the second half and that made the difference.”
On Wright’s defensive effort: “It was huge on some of those plays in the fourth quarter. The block was huge. He had some other big rebounds in traffic. We needed every ounce that everybody gave us tonight. I thought [Shane] Larkin in the first half gave us some great defense on Dragic. And, he hit the 3 that gave us the lead to end the first quarter, which was huge. It’s pretty clear that we need everybody on this roster. We need everybody. So, I am proud of them. Yesterday was a rough day around here after what happened with San Antonio and we knew this was going to be a slugfest. We knew we were going to have to outlast these guys, and they did. So, we are proud to be going to the playoffs again.”
On Dirk’s ability to get back into it after a rough first half: “He just stayed in it mentally. He told me before the game that he was ready to go 48 minutes if he had to. And, I knew that wasn’t going to be possible, so I felt like if we could get him some decent rest in the first half because we would have to rely on him more in the second half, and we did. He is just one of the most amazing guys I have been around in basketball and I’ve been around some pretty amazing guys. He was not going to allow us to lose this game tonight.”
On the character of his team: “I thought it sucked the last game and I thought it was great this game. I include myself in that, too.”
On Ellis’ ability to deliver big: “He’s a rise-to-the-moment player. He’s been that, really, all year. He’s had a lot of huge games for us. He’s a great competitor. He doesn’t want to sit, he practices every day.”
On having to rely on people for heavier minutes: “It was one of those games where you could throw out the rotation card and you’ve got to find the guys with the biggest hearts, that are the biggest competitors and let them win or lose the games. That’s what we did. Nowitzki and Ellis led the way and a lot of other guys played big, as well.”
On getting back into the playoffs: “It’s big. Our franchise stands for winning championships. You can’t win a championship unless you get into the playoffs. I don’t know who our matchup is going to be. It’ll be tough, whatever it is. We’ll be ready.”
On Wright’s defensive effort: “It was huge. Everybody contributed out there. He was able to get some big blocks out there that we needed, and that was able to seal the deal.”
It’s a great accomplishment to get into the playoffs. It’s not just about getting to the playoffs. It’s about getting into the playoffs and making a run at something. That’s the ultimate challenge right there. That’s what it’s about.”
On what this probably means for Monta Ellis as he gets to go into the playoffs again: “He’s missed the playoffs a lot. I knew he wanted it. I’m just happy for him.”
“We have the best training staff. They do a good job of taking care of us. We’ve been lucky, but we definitely work at it. (knocks on his locker) Let’s hope we don’t have any injuries.”
On the impact ofHim and Sam did a really good job of protecting the rim. He played beyond his years tonight.”
On if that block at the end was one of the biggest plays of his career: “It’s right up there. He probably hits that layup if I don’t come over. It pretty much clinched a spot. It’s one of those things you look back on.”
On if this was one of his better all-around games of the season: “We got the win. I feel like I played pretty solid overall. We needed everyone tonight.”
On clinching a playoff spot: “We’re happy to get in, we don’t know who we will play, but I think we’re a dangerous team. We got a lot of players capable of making plays, a lot of veterans over here who want to win. It will be exciting for us, we know we will be on the road, but we are a better team on the road right now. ”
On moving into the top 25 in scoring: “I’m speechless. To accomplish something like that is amazing. Some of the people I’ve passed I grew up watching and respected and considered some of the all-time greats. When you throws those names out there, I’m like, really? To do it in a big game like this, it was awesome. It was a great moment. I’m just glad we won. It means more when you win.”
On getting the win and securing a playoff spot now: “It felt like a Game 6, Game 7 in the playoffs. That’s the way it’s been for us for the last week or two. We had to play at that level. It’s helped us. I feel like we’re playoff-ready now because of the games we’ve had to win.”
On his night: “It was one of those things where my shots were going down. My teammates were doing a great job of setting screens and spacing the floor right. I was able to attack and make plays.”
On getting back to the playoffs: “The thing is, we set a goal in training camp. People doubted us, never gave us a chance. As of today, we have made our goal of making the playoffs. We’re getting ready for the playoffs.”
On Carlisle saying he was a rise-to-the-moment player and if he was out to ensure the team wasn’t going to lose: “I don’t think it was just me. We came together as a team. Even when we were down 13, we came together as a team. We got out and ran. We played Maverick basketball.”
On Nowitzki being able to turn things around after the first half: “Dirk has been doing a heck of a job all season long. We know he’s going to have bad halves. We all do. He just stayed with it like the veteran that he is. He just found his touch when he needed to.”
On the play of Wright: “He was great. He got a lot of great rebounds that we needed. He played a heck of a game.”
On if there was any doubt that they would come back and win the game: “The only thing we had to do was come together as a team, get some stops and get out and run.”