(The Sports Xchange) - Mavericks backup guard Raymond Felton took charge of a game filled with wild scoring swings to save Dallas from a near-disastrous loss, leading it to a 122-116 overtime victory against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night at American Airlines Center.
Felton scored 10 of his 16 points on the final possession of the fourth quarter and overtime. Dallas trailed by 23 points in the second quarter, took the lead in the third only to fall behind by 14 points with more than eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter and they trailed by nine points with less than two minutes left in regulation.
Felton tied it 108-108 with 10.5 seconds left in regulation when drove a wide-open lane for a layup as Denver’s defense keyed on Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, and nobody bothered to stick with Felton.
Still, Denver had plenty of time to get a good look coming out of the timeout, but forward Will Barton, who led Denver with 22 points despite poor shooting, went one-on-one against Felton, took the possession deep into the clock and then front-rimmed a long jumper. The isolation sequence infuriated Nuggets coach Mike Malone and sent the game into overtime.
“You’re on the road, hostile environment--you need to have poise, you need to slow down, execute the play,” Malone said. “What happens sometimes in those situations (is that) I think it’s really important that you trust each other, and I think a lot of our guys think they need to make the play. And their heart’s in the right place, but that’s when we need to trust each other on both ends of the floor.”
Felton, who Dallas coach Rick Carlisle inserted into the starting lineup to open the second half for a small-ball look, then scored eight of Dallas’ 13 points and grabbed a key defensive rebound as the veteran Mavericks (31-28) pulled a game it simply could not lose to the lottery-bound Nuggets as the race at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff chase tightens.
“I just had the will to not lose,” Felton said. “We needed this win and wanted to win. I was taking what the defense was giving me. With a great guy like Dirk and being able to come off the screen with everyone worried about him, it makes it so much easier for me to get in the lane. I just tried to get in there and do a good job of finishing and finding somebody.”
It was just Dallas’ third win its last nine games, and the win came two nights after a second-half stomping by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then, the Mavericks’ sluggish start that saw them trail 55-32 with 3:15 to go had the sellout crowd in Dallas starting to send down boos.
They were cheering at the end, however, after watching the Mavericks pull off the fifth-largest home comeback in franchise history.
“To the fans that didn’t boo, the fans that remained confident in us, we appreciate that,” said Mavs guard Wesley Matthews, who had 17 points, while knocking down four 3-pointers on seven attempts.
Dallas forward Chandler Parsons paced Dallas with 27 points, forward Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Forward David Lee, in just his second game with Dallas, recorded 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The Nuggets (23-36) will look back at this one and wonder how they let it slip away. But like so many young teams in the league, it is often much more difficult to hold a double-digit lead than it is to build it.
And they had to do play a large chunk of the second half without forward Danilo Gallinari, who left in the third quarter with a sprained ankle after landing on a teammates’ ankle.
The Nuggets’ demise really started the moment they grabbed the 23-point lead. A late flurry saved the second quarter from being one of the most abysmal 12 minutes of Dallas’ season, and it very much saved this game. Dallas missed 12 of its first 13 shots to start the quarter and fell behind 55-32 with 3:15 to go.
The Mavericks, who were 7 of 21 from the floor in the second quarter and 0 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half, closed the second quarter on a 12-1 run to essentially cut the Nuggets’ biggest lead in half to go into halftime trailing by a far more manageable margin of 56-44.
“We blew a 23-point lead which is unfortunate,” Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur said. “I thought we played decent for the majority of the game. It was those couple minutes at the end of quarters where we didn’t close the quarters and they made plays. I give those guys credit, they never gave up and executed their game plan.”
Denver got a balanced scoring attack, but failed to get the defensive stops it needed to protect its large leads throughout the game. Forward Kenneth Faried had 20 points and 12 rebounds, guard D.J. Augustin finished with 20 points and guard Gary Harris had 17.
Compiled by Peter Rutherford