A busy Wednesday in the Southwest Division was highlighted by a pair of divisional matchups, including a nationally televised victory for the Dallas Mavericks over the Houston Rockets.
Dallas’ season was on the verge being broken beyond repair just last week, but Dirk Nowtizki and company have suddenly turned things around with a four game winning streak to claw their way to 17-23. The Mavs capitalized on home court advantage in their 105-100 victory to improve their home record to 11-7.
The keys to this victory came from Dallas’ defense which held the Rockets to 39.2 percent shooting, five percent below their season average. The Mavs didn’t shoot the ball particularly well themselves at 38 percent, but they were able to make up for it by forcing 16 turnovers, taking eight of those off James Harden and Jeremy Lin.
Rick Carlisle clearly sent his team out there with the objective to stop Lin and Harden. Former New York Knick Lin finished above his scoring average with 19 points but was held to just four assists while Harden was limited to a 20 point night, a small number considering he is averaging 26 points per game.
Another key factor was the Mavericks ability to get to the free throw line. Shooting 34-43 from the charity stripe allowed Dallas to get six players in double figures despite the fact that they shot well below their three point shooting average of 35 percent (22% on the night). The victory was important for the Mavs as they prepare for a tough six game stretch in which they play the likes of Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Portland and Golden State.
SAN ANTONIO CRUSHES MEMPHIS
The Spurs avenged their loss in Memphis last Friday by giving the Grizzlies a good working over on Wednesday night 103-82.
San Antonio is often a team that plays better as the game goes on, but they took that to an extreme on the defensive end on Wednesday holding Memphis to just 28 second half points. Memphis would make just one three pointer on the night and was unable to stand up to the Spurs as they uncharacteristically broke down on defense repeatedly.
The entire Memphis starting lineup would crack double figures in scoring, but their bench would add just 21 points to San Antonio’s 36 bench points. The Spurs were without Manu Ginobili due to injury, but were able to fall back on the ever reliable duo of Tony Parker (17 points, 11 assists) and Tim Duncan (19 points, 8 rebounds).
A major factor in this game was that the Spurs shot an impressive 58 percent from the field, largely due to their 46 points in the paint compared to Memphis’ 26. In the second quarter alone, San Antonio scored 35 points to help them head into the locker room with a three point lead despite trailing by six after the first quarter.
There was no turnover differential between the two teams, yet the Spurs were able to shut down Memphis on the break, finishing the game without allowing a single fast break point. Gregg Popavich’s team now improves to 30-11 and sits on top of the Southwest Division with a 13 game home winning streak.
HORNETS COOL OFF RED HOT CELTICS
New Orleans rolled into Boston on the heels of an impressive victory over Brooklyn and proceeded to make it six wins in their last seven games as they staged another impressive defensive performance by holding the Celtics to a mere 78 points.
The attention was on Austin Rivers as he entered his father’s building for the first time, but his 8 point, 1 assist performance was a mere footnote in the game. Greivis Vasquez (15 points, 11 assists) and Anthony Davis (10 points, 10 rebounds) both chipped in with double-doubles to ease the impact of Eric Gordon’s absence as he missed the game due to the coach’s decision to rest him.
New Orleans didn’t shoot well from three point range (12%), but they worked hard on the defensive end to ensure that the Celtics didn’t either. Boston is the sixth best shooting team in the league, but on Wednesday they would shoot 22 percent from downtown and a disturbing 6-16 from the free throw line.
New Orleans is 28th in the league in free throw attempts, but Monty Williams’ side was able to get to the free throw with better effectiveness in this one, going 26-31 on the night. The Hornets have gone from a somewhat weak defensive team to the tenth best defense in the league. Over this seven game stretch, they are giving up an average of 90 points per game, a number that if sustained would make the second best defense in the league.