INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is no stranger to walking out of Conseco Fieldhouse as a victor.
Unfortunately for his former team, the Indiana Pacers, it came at their expense.
Dirk Nowitzki(notes) scored 31 points, Jason Terry(notes) had 17 and Kris Humphries(notes) added 12 points and 11 rebounds as the streaking Mavericks coasted to their fifth straight road victory, 113-92 on Friday night.
The outcome was especially sweet for Carlisle, who coached the Pacers from 2003-07 and led the team to three straight postseason appearances. Dallas, which leads the Southwest Division, improved to 12-4.
“It’s meaningful because I spent a lot of great years here, both as an assistant and head coach,” he said. “My wife and daughter came in for Thanksgiving and they were at the game tonight, so we wanted to win it for them. Indiana is a great place, but it is a little bittersweet coming back.”
Carlisle, who was fired by the Pacers after missing the playoffs in 2006-07, took the high road and praised the organization.
“I really believe that (Pacers president) Larry Bird has done a great job rejuvenating the type of people they have,” Carlisle said. “This fan base is very knowledgeable and they know these young players are going to continue to get better. They’re going to have some nights where it’s a struggle, and other nights where they’re going to beat the Bostons and Dallases of the world.”
Friday was more of the struggling variety for the Pacers (6-8). Danny Granger(notes), who missed Wednesday’s victory over the Clippers with a sprained ligament in his left knee, finished with 20 points, and Mike Dunleavy returned from a right knee injury and scored 13 in his season debut.
“We did not play tough enough. That’s why we got pounded,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “You have to play with tremendous force and we did not.”
Dallas opened a 35-26 advantage on Jose Barea’s 3-pointer to end the first quarter. The Mavericks pushed the lead to 22 on Nowitzki’s free throw in the second quarter, but the Pacers trimmed the deficit to 12 before intermission.
“I don’t really know what happened, but our offense really seems to click, really everybody is shooting the ball,” Nowitzki said. “The last two games we’ve done a good job. If it wasn’t there, swing the ball, pick-and-roll, swing it back and just take our time.”
Carlisle left some promising words for discouraged Pacers fans.
“The team has a very bright future and Jim O’Brien is a terrific coach,” he said. “Everybody talks about New York and their cap space, but in another year or two, this franchise is going to be very well positioned to take some quantum leaps because of their cap situation. This will be a more desirable place for players to come.”
Carlisle seemed content with his current coaching position.
“We’re doing some good things,” he said. “This time last year, we were laboring to play well and win games, so we’ve made strides. It’s all about daily improvement and trying to get to the level of being one of those ultimate contenders. The important thing is to just keep building.”
NOTES: Pacers F Tyler Hansbrough(notes) bruised his left knee in the third quarter and did not return. … Dunleavy, who had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right knee, played 15 minutes. … Indiana has missed the playoffs the past three years. … Dallas has won seven of eight, with the only loss coming against Golden State on Nov. 24.