MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—It’s about time teams start respecting the Dallas Mavericks’ defense.
Trailing by 10 in the fourth, the Mavericks clamped down on the Memphis Grizzlies in the final minutes Wednesday night and won 81-80 for their 10th straight victory.
It was the 10th straight game an opponent has failed to reach the century mark against Dallas, a franchise record.
“We’ve been relying on the defense a lot more,” said Jason Terry, who had nine of his 15 points in the fourth-quarter comeback. “That’s starting to be the new motto for our team; starting to be our reputation now. Defensively, during this stretch that we’ve been playing well, we’ve been pretty much putting the lockdown on teams.”
Dirk Nowitzki made two free throws with 7.2 seconds left, his only points of the fourth quarter, for the winning margin. Mike Miller’s drive with 3 seconds left bounced off the side rim, sending Memphis to its third loss in four games.
“Slipped a little bit. I should have made it,” Miller said.
The Mavericks held Memphis to 13 points and forced the Grizzlies into 28 percent shooting from the field in the fourth quarter.
“It was a great comeback for us,” Nowitzki said. “The last 10 games, I think we’re really trying to buy into (coach Avery Johnson’s) system on both ends of the floor. We’re moving the ball on offense, and trying to be as tough as we can be on defense. I think it’s going well.”
Nowitzki had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Josh Howard led Dallas with 19 points.
Atkins’ 3-pointer with 40 seconds left gave Memphis an 80-77 lead. But he missed two free throws with 23 seconds left, and Memphis ahead 80-79, setting up Nowitzki’s go-ahead free throws.
“We’ve lost so many close games,” Gasol said. “It’s frustrating. We had this game, and we let it get away again.”
After an anemic third quarter by the Mavericks, Memphis built the lead to 10 twice in the early stages of the final stanza, first on a baseline jumper by Battier, then on Miller’s layup.
Memphis began going inside to Gasol, but he couldn’t convert short chances, hitting only a dunk in his seven shots of the quarter.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks got a burst from Terry, who scored six in a string of eight unanswered points, including an 18-footer that pulled Dallas to 75-74 with just over 3 minutes left. His 3-pointer got the Mavericks even at 77 with 1:54 left.
Howard scored 13 early points and had 15 at the half, while Nowitzki added 14.
Memphis’ biggest success came from Gasol hitting outside jumpers and converting free throws. He was 6-of-12 and scored 18 points in the first half.
Nowitzki scored eight straight Dallas points late in the second period, but Atkins’ two free throws with under a second left in the half, cut the Mavericks’ lead to 47-45 at the break.
Terry said the win was an example of the new approach for the Mavericks, even if others aren’t paying attention.
“I still believe they think we’re the Mavericks that just run and gun,” Terry said. “Hopefully, we’ll just keep letting them think that.
“We’re trying to shake that identity. Our identity now is to win games with defense because your offense isn’t going to carry you every night.”
The Grizzlies are considering sending G Anthony Roberson and F Lawrence Roberts to the Arkansas Rimrockers of the NBA Development League during the team’s upcoming six-game road trip to get them more playing time. Coach Mike Fratello said the transfer could be a “reward” because it will get them playing time and possibly showcase them to other teams. … Terry said Johnson slammed the clipboard down during a timeout in the fourth, grazing the guard’s thumb. “We’re 2-0 when he throws the clipboard at me,” Terry said, adding that the previous time was in Seattle.