The Hawks matched a franchise-low by scoring just 28 points in the first half and the Mavericks wound up tying a franchise low for points allowed in a game in a 90-68 victory Saturday night.
“It was what I expected after a couple days of practice,” Dallas coach Don Nelson said.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 15 points and 12 rebounds, despite losing his front teeth. His gritty performance was fitting considering 137 U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan sat in front-row seats.
The soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio were flown in as part of a thank-you campaign thought up by a season-ticket holder, with more than $150,000 in courtside seats donated by fellow season-ticket holders. The soldiers—all wearing matching T-shirts and many with their injuries quite apparent—received a standing ovation after the first quarter.
Nowitzki was hit in the mouth by teammate Jason Terry and Atlanta’s Jason Collier while going for a rebound a few minutes in. He returned late in the first quarter without the dental bridge that comprises most of his top teeth. He had it put back in at halftime with a cream a team employee bought at a drug store during the first half.
“I was lucky enough that my dentist was actually at the game,” Nowitzki said. “He came in and fixed it real quick. I’ve got to go back and see him (Sunday).”
Nowitzki played 32 minutes, making five of 12 shots and uncharacteristically missing five of 10 foul shots. It hardly mattered, though, because of how poorly the Hawks played.
Atlanta opened with seven straight misses and made just one of its first 15 shots. The Hawks didn’t get a basket from a starter until there was 1:23 left in the first quarter and they finished the period with just 12 points. They had 16 in the second quarter, getting the last two on foul shots with 0.5 seconds left, giving them just 28 at halftime for the fourth time in franchise history.
Their 68 points set a season low for the second time in three games; they had 69 against Houston on Wednesday. Atlanta shot just 33 percent in losing its fifth straight, keeping the Hawks stuck at four wins, second worst in the NBA.
“The first and second quarters were a disaster offensively,” coach Mike Woodson said. “We just couldn’t make our shots. We lost our confidence a little bit shooting the ball.”
Considering that the Hawks missed layups, dunks and 10 of their first 14 free throws during the slow start, it’s hard to credit the Mavs’ defense too much. But Dallas, which had lost its last three at home, was coming off two long practices in which coach Don Nelson tried regaining the defensive intensity his players showed when they started the season 7-1.
“We had to get back to the way we were playing in early November,” said Terry, who made his first start with Dallas against his former team. “Now the key is coming back and doing it again.”
The Mavericks actually took their time breaking the game open. They led just 27-12 after Atlanta’s first-quarter cold snap, but stretched it to 23 by halftime and a game-high 32 at the end of the third quarter.
The lopsided score sucked away the story line of Terry and Atlanta’s Antoine Walker facing their former teams after being traded for each other in the offseason. Terry scored 12 points, and Walker had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Rookie Josh Smith provided the top highlight for the Hawks, getting 10 blocks, most in the NBA this season. Five came within the first eight minutes of the second quarter.
“I was just trying to contribute on the defensive end and trying to spark some energy into my teammates so we could execute on offense,” he said.
Dallas rookie Devin Harris showed his leaping ability, too, streaking through the defense for a dunk that drew oohs and aahs from teammates. He hit a free throw to make it a three-point play, too.
Atlanta wore its alternate road jerseys, which boldly feature a shade of yellow somewhere between lemon and mustard. … Dallas swingman Jerry Stackhouse sat out with a hand injury. … The Mavs allowed also their fewest points this season for a first quarter (12), second quarter (16) and first half.