When Nowitzki wasn’t overwhelming Golden State with his nearly indefensible talents, the 7-footer also traded shoves with Davis and Jason Richardson in a game featuring 12 technical fouls, Mike Dunleavy’s jersey-tossing ejection and plenty of trash talk.
Nowitzki’s competitive fire has been stoked all season since Steve Nash’s departure, and the German’s new leadership role sometimes extends after the whistle as well. If Dallas permanently sheds its reputation as a finesse team under new coach Avery Johnson’s commitment to defense, Nowitzki probably will lead the way.
“Whenever I get pushed, I feel like I have to push back,” Nowitzki said. “I’m not going to let anybody bully me out there. … That kind of stuff happens a thousand times out there, though. We have to toughen up. Teams still think we’re soft in the paint. I thought we played a really physical game.”
After tempers finally cooled, Dallas remained unbeaten in three games under Johnson, a former Warriors guard—though the wins came against three teams that are a combined 99 games under .500.
Dallas has lost to Golden State just four times in the last seven years, and the Mavs repeatedly scored from outside while the Warriors missed open shots on the other end. Jason Terry had 23 points and eight assists while hitting all 13 of his free throws, and Van Horn had his best game since joining the Mavs, going 8-for-11 and hitting two 3-pointers.
Van Horn has added a new dimension to Dallas’ high-scoring offense since arriving from Milwaukee—and though he also got a technical foul, he knocked down several big shots in the second half.
“I just tried to stay focused and not get too caught up in all the stuff that was going on,” Van Horn said. “It was a crazy game. I felt that the game could have been controlled a little better, but that stuff happens in competition.”
Davis had 22 points and eight assists before fouling out for the Warriors, whose winning streak was snapped after three straight victories over probable playoff teams. Mickael Pietrus scored 22 points, and Derek Fisher added 14.
Richardson scored 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting for Golden State, which was done in by a dismal third quarter and 2-for-23 shooting on 3-pointers—but its reconfigured roster showed off its renewed passion since Davis’ arrival.
“It was all in good fun. That’s what basketball is about,” Davis said of his third-quarter confrontation with Nowitzki. “It’s emotional. We got down, and we needed a spark. It’s just that they had the energy. They beat us to the punch tonight.”
The night of bad behavior was highlighted by Dunleavy, who got ejected for the first time in his career for arguing a questionable offensive foul in a collision with Nowitzki in the third quarter.
In an unusual display of passion for the laid-back forward, Dunleavy repeatedly screamed at referee Bill Spooner, then tossed his jersey into the air while leaving the court—and the fan who caught it immediately put it on.
“You never know what will happen when refs get under a guy’s skin,” Richardson said. “He showed us he’s got a lot of enthusiasm. He doesn’t show that often, but that’s good to see that from Mike.”
The hard knocks continued into the final minute, when one of the Warriors’ cheerleaders was hit in the face with a loose ball last touched by Nowitzki.
“Hey, is she all right?” Nowitzki asked a clubhouse attendant after the game. She was.
After a tough, well-played first half, the Mavericks opened the second half with a 21-9 run and never were threatened again. Golden State had several chances to cut Dallas’ lead to single digits midway through the fourth quarter, but Davis and Richardson missed at least four wide-open 3-point attempts.
Though Richardson returned to Golden State after a one-game absence for undisclosed personal reasons back home in Michigan, the Warriors played without forward Troy Murphy, who had 29 points and 14 rebounds in their win over Sacramento on Sunday. Murphy’s grandmother recently died in New Jersey.
Warriors G Calbert Cheaney also sat out with a sprained right ankle. … Johnson got a technical foul in the second quarter for protesting a no-call. Josh Howard also got a T in the third quarter for arguing. … Longtime Warriors C Erick Dampier missed his 16th straight game for Dallas with a broken right foot.