As soft as Dirk Nowitzki has been known to be for his fear of contact in a contact sport, Nowtizki showed off a new commitment to defense that matches his intensity on the offensive end. The 24 points on 10-18 shooting was a typical walk in the park for Nowitzki, but it was the 4 blocks — 2 down the stretch against David Lee — that proved to be his biggest contribution in a close game. With a minute to go, Nowitzki deflected an entry pass to David Lee, which turned into a free throw on the other end, extending their lead to 99-94.
But the block party didn’t end with Nowitzki. The Mavs dominated the paint with Haywood collecting 3 blocks and reserves Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca contributed 3 blocks combined. With 50 seconds left, Mahimi alterned Monta Ellis’ drive, forcing a wild shot off the backboard. The Mavs big men proved too much for the Warriors all night as Mahinmi and Ajinca combined for 15 points and 15 boards.
The Warriors bench — all 4 players — combined by 13 points.
Similar to previous games, turnovers and free throws doomed the Warriors this game. Even though Dorell Wright’s two steals in the early fourth lead to uncontested dunks and capping off an 8-0 run to tie the game, the Mavs won the points of turnover battle 21-16.
Worse yet, the Mavs outshot the Warriors at the free throw line, shooting 10 more free throws and making 12 more. What does that actually mean? The Warriors shot below 50% (6-13) and also gave up 9 more fouls. If the Warriors had attempted as many free throws as the Mavericks or even shot at a similar percentage as many as the Mavs did (17-23), the Warriors might have won this game by numbers alone.
But it was the same story for the Warriors again. Stephen Curry scored a team high 21 points (8-16), but also committed 6 turnovers. His 4th, a wrap around pass in the early 4th quarter that was picked off, was reasoning for a temporary benching and scolding by Coach Keith Smart.
Monta Ellis was bottled up for most of the game, forcing shots for most of three quarters. But in the fourth, his shot began to fall a bit and his whirled and twirled his way to drop 7 dimes to go with his 18 points. David Lee had a balanced game with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. But getting blocked twice down the stretch by Nowitzki’ hurt the Warriors chances to close the gap. Lee and Ellis combined for 4-11 from the line.
But give the Maverick’s reserves some credit. Against the Warriors in the 4th quarter, Ian Mahinmi looked as smooth as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his running hook and block effort on defense. Alexis Ajinca, who a friend of mine called rawer than sushi, became Dikembe Mutumbo for one night as the Warriors were unable to drive and score against him during the second quarter.
Warriors reserve Louis Amundson returned to action and provided 12 minutes of relief, finishing with 2 blocks and 4 points. Gadzuric picked up 2 fouls in a minute, making 1 three pointer and his other shot attempt hitting the broad-side of the backboard straight to Ellis.