Mavericks 122, Wizards 113
Jerry Stackhouse dribbled out the final eight seconds of the Dallas Mavericks' 122-113 win near the Washington Wizards' bench, then he shook hands with the Wizards' coaching staff and hugged Coach Eddie Jordan and former teammates Larry Hughes and Brendan Haywood. As Stackhouse began to run toward the visiting team's locker room at MCI Center, he slapped five with Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, a fellow North Carolina alum and the player Stackhouse was traded for in a draft day deal last summer.
A visitor in the building he called home for two seasons, Stackhouse didn't get the warmest reception -- he was booed every time he touched the ball yesterday -- but he reminded the Wizards and their fans what he is capable of when he is happy with his surroundings and he isn't hobbling because of an injured right knee. Stackhouse came off the bench for the Mavericks and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to push the Wizards (3-4) toward their fourth loss in five games. Stackhouse's 28 points for the game matched his season high, set the day before in a win at New Jersey.
"You always wish that guys are at their best," Hughes said after scoring 23 points with a season-high eight assists and four steals. "[But] I wish he didn't have a game like that against us."
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki led all players with 32 points and 13 rebounds and provided Stackhouse with several open looks, especially when Stackhouse hit three three-pointers during game-breaking 14-3 run in the fourth quarter.
Hughes sank a jumper to bring the Wizards within 102-101 with 4 minutes 45 seconds left but Stackhouse nailed a three-pointer from the left corner. With the Wizards still focused on Nowitzki, the 6-foot-11 all-star found Stackhouse camped out alone two more times and Stackhouse buried the Wizards with his last three-pointer, which gave the Mavericks a 116-104 lead.
"Stack definitely looks like he was healthy, but he's really feeding off Nowitzki, too," Haywood said. "You look at the fact that now he doesn't have to create for himself. He can have stuff created for him. I think right now in his career, that's probably the best role for him."
With the Wizards facing the Mavericks' scoring machine, Jordan inserted forward Jarvis Hayes into the lineup over Michael Ruffin, which resulted in the Wizards having all five starters score in double digits for the first time this season. Jamison scored 23 points and added nine rebounds. Haywood had 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocks. Point guard Gilbert Arenas had 20 points and nine assists and Hayes scored 14 with seven rebounds.
A day after shooting 33.3 percent and scoring 74 points, both season lows, offense was not the problem for the Wizards. "We can score with the best of them but it really doesn't matter what you do offensively when you can't stop them on the defensive end," said Jamison, who spent last season with Dallas. "Against a team that shoots the ball the way they shoot it, and moves the ball the way they move it . . . your defense has to get stronger and stronger as the game progresses. It all comes down to defense."
The Wizards have allowed at least 100 points in all four losses, while holding their opponents to less than 100 in each victory. They had one fewer field goal (42-43) and one fewer free throw (23-24) than Dallas, but the difference was beyond the three-point arc, where the Mavericks shot 12 of 19 (63.2 percent), including 4 for 4 in the fourth quarter. The Wizards made just six three-pointers. "They were hitting threes and we were hitting twos. That's not going to add up in our favor," Hughes said.
The Mavericks shot 52.4 percent, with Nowitzki hitting 10 of 15 shots. Reserve forward Jared Jeffries (seven points, five rebounds) tried his best to slow down Nowitzki, but the Wizards broke down after Jeffries was forced to leave momentarily in the fourth period. Jeffries landed on his backside drawing an offensive foul against Nowitzki. "Jared was good for us," Jordan said. "He needed that game."
And although he didn't admit it, Stackhouse probably did, too. "People try to make it more than it is," he said of his return. "I have a lot of love for those guys in the other locker room, and obviously, at the end of the game, they showed they have a lot of love for me."