The Dallas Mavericks closed out the Denver Nuggets late in a game full of runs, 122-106. Monta Ellis lead the good guys with 26 points, including 14 in the final quarter, and added 7 assists. Ty Lawson lead the Nuggets with 17 points and 9 assists. With the Memphis loss to Miami, the Mavericks regain a firm hold on the 7th seed in the Western Conference.
The first quarter felt all too familiar. After Jose Calderon blocked Kenneth Faried (yes that happened), Dallas opted to get the ball to Samuel Dalembert on each of the first two possessions. The result? Two missed shots, a turnover, and a random ten footer. It was as strange as it sounds. Denver came out with more energy early, despite Dirk getting into a good shooting rhythm and even getting a dunk. Coach Rick Carlisle had to call a mid-quarter time out after back to back Denver threes coming off of makes. Devin Harris and Vince Carter helped settle Dallas a bit, as the Mavericks weathered a three point barrage from the Nuggets in the first quarter (they hit five). Dallas trailed 29-26 after one.
The second period saw Dallas gather some strength offensively, hitting six threes in the first six minutes of the quarter. Vince Carter started the charge and was followed by Jae Crowder, of all people, who hit four three point shots in a row. Denver managed to hang around, as Ty Lawson and J.J. Hickson found a variety of ways to punish the weak Dallas defense. The final few minutes of the quarter saw scoring slow for both sides as Dallas pulled itself ahead on a number of Brandan Wright attempts and a few Dirk Nowitzki jumpers. The Mavericks managed to out-rebound the athletic Denver front court through half time (29 to 22) and took a 61-53 lead into the half.
The third quarter saw the Mavericks take fairly firm control of the game. Dirk hit a three and a few free throws to loosen Dallas up and Monta had a burst which saw him score 7 points on three straight possessions. Despite Randy Foye and Ty Lawson fighting to keep Denver alive, the Mavericks managed to lead by as many as 17 before the Nuggets whittled the lead back to 12 before the end of the quarter. Shawn Marion had a quiet, yet effective quarter, scoring 6 in a row right after Monta's seven point burst. Carter hit a ridiculous three from 5 feet behind the arc. J.J. Hickson, had he converted any of his free throws, might have made the quarter a bit closer, but struggled from the line most of the period. Dallas took a 90-78 lead into the final quarter.
The final period saw Denver rally back to start the quarter, shrugging off Maverick scores to pull within 9 on the backs of J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur. After Hickson headed to the locker room with an injured leg, Evan Fournier hit a step back three over Monta Ellis to pull the Nuggets within 6. Monta Ellis re-extended the lead to eight before Darrell Athur buried a three to cut the Maverick lead to five. After an Ellis turnover on a drive, Arthur scored again on a ridiculous back cut. Dirk responded with a classic fade. Ty Lawson sunk one of two free throws to again cut into the Dallas lead, but another Dirk fade and a Monta fast break lay up gave Dallas a slight cushion. A Fournier lay up from Denver was followed by a great hook from Wright to boost the Mav lead up to eight. A phenomenal Monta pass to Wright to a cutting Shawn Marion for a dunk tried to close the door on the rallying Nuggets. Denver would continue to score as the game wound down, but the Mavericks were able to score more, as Monta Ellis and Brandan Wright played a two man game that resulted in lots of buckets. The Mavercks held on for a 122-106 victory.
-Dallas now has more wins than it did last season. 50 wins is a real possibility. How awesome.
-It's hard to say how important it is for Dirk to finish a game under 30 minutes played. Dallas needs to rest his legs some if they want to bother teams in the playoffs. So huge, huge props to Monta Ellis and Brandan Wright for finishing the Nuggets without his help.
-I teased Dalembert for how bad his first quarter was, but he actually played a good game and made some important plays. The guy grabbed 10 rebounds in 16 minutes. Fantastic.
-Shawn Marion looks alive lately. I wonder how much home cooking (and those ice baths) help a guy like him. Either way, I'm glad to see it.
-Lots of talk for Vince Carter for 6th man of the year. It's not going to happen but he keeps playing solid basketball. That's all anyone can ask for someone who was born man moons ago.
-Jae Crowder. He did some things! That's two games in a row. Let's keep it going guy! Make Andy and I look like the stupid fan bloggers we are.
-A day of rest, then Brooklyn. Be ready.