By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 8, 2009
DALLAS, March 7 -- A hush rippled through a suddenly quiet American Airlines Arena when Wizards forward Dominic McGuire made a difficult 18-foot jump shot to draw his team within eight points of the Dallas Mavericks with just over seven minutes left on Saturday night.
On the Dallas bench, Jason Kidd shook his head and the general sentiment in the building seemed to be something along the lines of: "Wow, we've allowed a team we should be beating easily to hang around and now we've got a fight on our hands."
It took exactly 1 minute 21 seconds for that to change as the Mavericks followed McGuire's shot by ripping off an 8-0 Dirk Nowitzki-fueled run that the big German capped by throwing down a dunk that sent the crowd into a frenzy and the Mavericks on their way to a comfortable 119-103 victory.
For the Wizards (14-49), the startling shift was just the latest reminder that momentum is fleeting and behind every positive lurks disaster.
Case in point: since playing one of their best games of the season while beating the Chicago Bulls in front of President Obama on Feb. 27, the Wizards have dropped five straight.
"We just needed a couple of more stops," forward Caron Butler said of the run that Nowitzki started by making a 13-foot jump shot while drawing a foul on Mike James. "But then they came down and isolated Dirk at the top and that puts you in a tough spot. If you run a double at him, it leaves someone else open if you don't, he can square up and make a shot."
That was just one of the issues the Wizards faced all night. Nowitzki, who is quietly putting up MVP numbers, certainly did his part by scoring a game-high 34 points along with posting nine rebounds and seven assists. Jason Terry was also a major problem as the reserve guard came off the bench to tie a season-high with 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
Kidd chipped in with 11 assists, Dallas shot 52.7 percent and, the Wizards hurt themselves by turning the ball over 23 times. The Mavericks converted those mistakes into 31 points.
Butler returned after missing three straight games with tightness in his left hamstring and posted 20 points and nine rebounds in 41 minutes. Antawn Jamison turned in a typically steady effort with 24 points and 11 rebounds and the Wizards shot 54.4 percent while making eight three-pointers.
The Mavericks (38-25) are in a fight for their playoff lives and entered the night holding a slight edge over the Phoenix Suns for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, so beating teams like the Wizards is a must.
Andray Blatche gave the Wizards a 31-22 lead when he capped a 12-2 run by making a 19-foot jumper with 9:39 remaining in the second quarter and later pushed the advantage to a game-high 10 points by making a three-pointer as the shot clock wound down.
Interim coach Ed Tapscott received solid minutes from reserves like Blatche, rookie center JaVale McGee and guard Nick Young, who combined to score 20 points.
The Mavericks seized control with a 9-0 run late in the third and held leads that hovered in the eight to 15 point range early in the fourth before McGuire made his shot.
"Let's admit: 119-103 is really too quick a pace for us," Tapscott said. "But once you get down, you've got to push the pace and they made us pay."