Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feels so Wright: Mavs 109, Pacers 106

And just like that, the evidence of a 2-7 start has been erased.

And more importantly, the evils that led to that start appear to be fading.

The Dallas Mavericks overcame a 13 point deficit, being on the correct end of a fourth quarter comeback again, to defeated coach Rick Carlisle's former team, 109-106. And without Josh Howard, the Mavs needed someone to pick up the scoring slack.

Who knew that Antoine Wright would not only pour in the points but also D up to slow down the Pacers. Wright got the start tonight at 2-guard and scored 24 points, and Dallas needed every single one of 'em. He went 10-of-18 from the field (which would have been better if he hadn't missed all five three-pointers he took) and 4-of-5 from the free throw line. And unlike the first-half-heavy scoring of J-Ho, Wright split it evenly, 12 in each half.

But while Wright emerged tonight as a key cog, the man cranking the machine down the stretch was once again Jason Eugene Terry. The Jet flew off the bench for 29 points, 16 of which in the fourth quarter, for Dallas to climb back for a win.

The Mavs looked like they'd be able to overtake the Pacers down the stretch in the 3rd quarter, as Jet hit a bucket to pull Dallas within four, 71-75, but the Pacers promptly extended their lead to 10, 81-71, in just a 90-second span. The Mavs headed into the fourth quarter trailing 77-83, and the Pacers, led by former Mav Marquise Daniels, had a great chance to upset the Mavs at the AAC.

Not quite.

With the exception of one bucket by Brandon Bass, the quartet of Wright, Terry, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd dominated the final period for Dallas. Wright had 6 points, including all four of his free throws, as he continued to drive to the hoop as he had all game long. Dirk's final period didn't impress the way a former MVP should. As the former MVP failed to convert on a few free throw attempts, he did manage to find open shots for his teammates, none bigger than a pass and pop three-pointer to Jason Kidd with 1:02 left to give Dallas its first lead since a 31-30 advantage with 9:31 left in the 2nd quarter.

Kidd's three-pointers were big, but the Mavs don't come back if not the for instant-offense capabilities of Terry. He led all scorers and came off the bench in this one. As Howard continues to miss time, Terry will be the one to help this team overcome. Unexpected contributions from the Antonie Wrights of this team are necessary, but Terry is vital.

One other note about this game; the officiating reminded me of something you'd see at a JV game. An early foul called against Rasho Nesterovic on Dirk Nowitzki was nothing more than Dirk colliding with his own teammate Shawne Williams. Pacers coach Jim O'Brien earned a technical foul arguing the call. Then again, Devean George was called for a foul when he swung and missed at a Pacer driving to the hoop. It was bad, but at least it was bad both ways.

The Mavericks are now back to .500, having now won their last five games. At 7-7, Dallas now must travel to LA to face the Lakers before a monster stretch of home games. We knew Dallas had a schedule that would allow them to win five straight, but we didn't know if this team had the toughness to actually do it.

Now we know. And isn't that half the battle?

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