DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Mavericks’ coach doesn’t want to count. The Dallas Mavericks’ players don’t want to shave. And the team’s unwillingness to fold at the beginning of what its labeled their “Super Bowl Week’’ got off to a good start Wednesday with a 105-99 victory over the Blazers at the AAC.
“It means I’ve been around a long time,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said, trying to shrug off the importance of his 500th win as an NBA coach. “I’m getting old. But it means I’ve had a lot of good players. It’s meaningful, but I’m not into those kinds of things. I’m into the day-to-day stuff.’’
For the Mavs, the “day-to-day stuff’’ is about climbing out of a hole that places this perennially-contending team nearer last place in the West than eighth place. This victory begins a five-game home stand that Carlisle has labeled “Super Bowl’’-like in its importance for Dallas, now 21-28.
Carlisle’s presence is a foundation for the franchise, and the coach of Dallas’ 2011 NBA title team now has another skin on the wall. He becomes the fifth active coach in NBA history to win at least 500 games and he’s achieved it in just 853 outings – the 11th fastest to do so.
“It’s obviously a fun accomplishment for Coach,’’ Dirk Nowitzki said. “That means he’s been around a minute.”
The Mavs are trying to have some fun with their attempted climb back to .500, and Dirk is a leader of that movement; most of the players have vowed to not shave until they achieve that modest milestone.
One guy is already hirsute enough: Vince Carter, returning to the club after an illness, made a critical jumper with 26.9 seconds left to give the Mavs a 99-94 lead. The scoring of O.J. Mayo (28 points) was also key; he scored 20 in the first half on 8-of-9 shooting. Carter scored 17 (including a pair of resounding second-quarter dunks), Nowitzki totaled 16, and Shawn Marion –Dallas’ most consistent player all season — had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mavs won this game in part because of depth and defense. Dallas went into the game believing that an uptempo approach would show off a depth advantage. By allowing Portland just 38 second-half points (after trailing 61-57 at the half), the Mavs succeeded in both categories. Dallas also committed just eight turnovers.
Portland was led by DFW native LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 27 points and nine rebounds.
Carlisle said he’s glad to have “500-win talk’’ behind him.
“One relief I have is I think after tomorrow I won’t have to hear about it again for a while, so that’s good,’’ he said.
And Dirk is looking forward to getting to .500 so he can put his scratchiness behind him.
“We said we’re not going to shave until we’re back to .500,” Nowitzki said. “So it’s been rough. There’s been some itching going on. And since we’re still down seven games below .500, that’s a long way to go.”
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