There was 9:16 remaining in the first quarter. The Dallas Mavericks were up 10-5 over the Los Angeles Clippers. Wesley Matthews posted up Lance Stephenson at the short right corner for the third time in as many possessions.
He took two dribbles, faked to his left, faded away to his right and sank a smooth jumper right in Stephenson's grill. At that moment, Matthews was 3-for-3 with seven points.
On a night where DeAndre Jordan got booed out of the building and Dirk Nowitzki turned back the clock and willed the Mavericks to a 118-108 victory over the despised Clippers, overshadowed was the performance of the man who was given a $70 million contract by the Mavericks, just four months removed from suffering from a torn Achilles.
Without Wes Matthews' 25 points, the Mavericks don't win Wednesday night. Without Wes Matthews, the Mavericks don't get to revel in the fact that for one night, they got the best of the man that put the franchise through a tailspin back in early July.
It was because of the guy that didn't leave the Mavericks that they got that ever-satisfying win, and in the process, he showed Jordan what could've been.
"I was just happy that we won," Matthews said last night. "We laid an egg (Tuesday night), and that’s not us. We needed a game like this for our morale, for our fans and to let everyone know we can play this game.
It hasn't been the best of starts to the season for Matthews. He was on a 7-for-31 shooting slump in his last four games coming into Wednesday, including an 0-for-5 dud against the New Orleans Pelicans the night before. Maybe he fed off the emotion of the crowd, or maybe he wanted to prove to Jordan (and maybe himself, for that matter) that he's capable of being that $70 million player the Mavericks invested in this summer.
Because he sure looked like it last night. Matthews has been on a mission ever since Game 1. He wasn't supposed to be back on the court until around Christmas time. He's not supposed to be shooting almost 41 percent from 3-point range.
But he is.
Last night showed that the resurrection of Iron Man is near completion, if anything. He's not going to score 25 points a night for the rest of the year. That'd be too unfair. The Mavericks needed someone else besides Dirk to carry them last night. For as fantastic and clutch as Dirk was, if Matthews doesn't shoot 9-for-13, grab six rebounds and dish out three assists, Dallas doesn't win that game and probably loses by 10.
This is why the Mavericks gave Matthews $70 million. When he's healthy, he can make the biggest impacts in the biggest moments when they count. Not only did he deliver on the offensive end, but Matthews spent the majority of Wednesday's game guarding Chris Paul 1-on-1.
Paul finished shooting 2-for-11. One of those makes was an absurd, falling-away 3-pointer over Dirk in the fourth quarter. Other than that, Matthews locked him down when it mattered most.
"He was fantastic, basically picking CP up full court, trying to force him into tough shots, being physical with him, fighting through screens," Nowitzki said. "And on the offensive end, he was on fire."
Who knows if Wednesday was the starting point for the Mavericks to start playing consistently good basketball? Not you, nor I. But if Wednesday did tell us anything, it's that this Dallas team has a pulse. They have life. That life comes from the never-say-never attitude from Wes Matthews. His motivation gives this team hope that they can actually be a threat in the West. It's probably that same motivation that Chandler Parsons is feeling as he recovers from knee surgery.
Dallas needed heart when they lost Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks got it all back, and maybe then some, in Matthews. In return, they showed Jordan what he's missing out on.
That's why Wes Matthews is a Dallas Maverick.