12/17/2007 Mavericks vs. Orlando
Basketball isn’t often referred to as a game of inches. Monday night it was a game of toes, specifically those belonging to Magic guard Keith Bogans.
What at first appeared to be a game-tying 3-point in the closing seconds was not to be, and the Mavericks were able to hold on to a 111-108 victory before a sellout crowd of 20,114 at American Airlines Center.
“It was close,” Josh Howard said simply.
It was. And this was the kind of game the Mavericks were losing not so long ago, facing a potent Eastern Conference squad with a budding superstar/MVP candidate in Dwight Howard. This is also exactly the kind of game they won more often than not the last couple seasons.
It’s too soon to say whether if those Mavs are back, but Dallas (17-9) has won three straight and five of six, and 10 in a row against the Magic at home.
“Obviously, the month of November wasn’t really great,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Our big goal was to take it month-to-month. I think we’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Led by Nowitzki’s 31 points, the Mavs were the once again the picture of offensive balance. Three other finished with at least 15, and two more scored eight. Dallas shot 52.5 percent and made 23-of-25 free throws.
And though Orlando (17-9) shot a healthy 52.4 percent, the Mavs were able to bottle up Dwight Howard effectively for the last three quarters. Erick Dampier, the strongest of the Mavs, needed every bit of that brawn to keep Howard from the rim.
“We really challenged Damp to bring some more energy,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “We tried to bring some help when the opportunity presented itself, but it really was just Damp.”
Clinging to a three-point lead (107-104) going into the last 10 seconds, Josh Howard (19 points) fouled Jameer Nelson in transition before the Magic point guard could swing it to one of Orlando’s legion of 3-point shooters.
Nelson nailed both free throws to make it 107-106 with 7.4 seconds left. Two foul shots followed from Nowitzki with 7.0 on the clock. The Magic called time and took the ball in Dallas’ end.
The inbounds pass went to Dwight Howard, who dropped it off to Bogans outside the arc. Well, almost. Bogans appeared to tie it up with 3.5 seconds left, but the toes of his right sneaker edged into the black stripe dividing two from three points.
Three-point defense, especially in the final seconds, has been a thorn in the Mavs’ side this season.
“And we’re going to practice it again tomorrow,” Johnson said. “Guaranteed.”
Jerry Stackhouse continued his resurgence for Dallas, scoring 21 off the bench in only 22 minutes. He’s averaging 18 in the last three games.
Devin Harris (15 points and nine assists) also “won” his personal duel with Nelson, who last week claimed he was a better player and more valuable to his team than Harris. Nelson had 13 points and five assists. As he did last week, Harris took the high road when asked about Nelson.
“I’m glad to win any point-guard matchup, no matter who is out there,” he said. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Dwight Howard proved unstoppable early, bullying and powering his way to 16 first-quarter points. He bowled Josh Howard over on defensive switch to throw down a two-handed slam.
Dwight Howard, the NBA’s runaway leader in dunks, didn’t do much from there. He was held scoreless in the second quarter on three shots and managed only six points in the second half.
“We just stayed with the gameplan,” said Dampier, who had eight points and seven rebounds. “Made their guys make plays. When they ran the pick-and-roll on the side, I just stayed with him. We just tried to limit his touches and contest his shots.”
Hedo Turkoglu paced Orlando with 26 points, Rashard Lewis added 15 and Nelson had 13.