DALLAS _ In getting their first win of the season, the Dallas Mavericks got major production from of all places -- the center position.
Playing one of the best games of his career, backup center Ian Mahinmi poured in a career-high 19 points as the Mavs won their first game of the season, 9i9-86, Friday night at American Airlines Center over the Toronto Raptors.
Mahinmi was 6-of-6 from the field and also collected five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in 29 minutes.
“Tonight I was just trying to make plays,’’ Mahinmi said. “Obviously we were on a losing streak and I did everything I could out there to get that win.’’
After opening the season with losses to Miami, Denver and Oklahoma City, the Mavs shot 44.4 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle for the first time this season to run their record to 1-3. And most of what transpired Friday was fueled by Mahinmi.
“I know this was a career high in points for him, but the last two nights he’s given us a really high level of energy,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s given us a presence, he’s a combative guy and he was really big tonight.
“It wasn’t just his points. It was defensively he’s in the right place, he’s aggressive, he’s talking.’’
In addition to Mahinmi, the Mavs got 18 points and four steals form Dirk Nowitzki, 17 points from Jason Terry, 12 from Shawn Marion and 10 from Vince Carter.
“We’re playing better basketball,’’ Carlisle said. “The first couple of games were horrible.
“The last couple of games are games we can build on. Tonight wasn’t perfect -- we gave up two significant leads -- but I thought the key part of the game was the end of the third when we were on a run with Dirk on the bench. That gives us a huge lift.’’
The Mavs used a late 16-2 run to tote a 77-70 cushion into the fourth quarter. Then, Terry popped in 10 of his points -- and Mahinmi tallied five of his points -- in the fourth period to salt the game away.
“I knew exactly what I was supposed to do on pick-and-roll,’’ Mahinmi said. “That’s really one of the things I like to do is play pick-and-roll defense, so I just want to do it and execute it exactly the way they had in on the (game) plan.’’
Toronto coach Dwane Casey, who was the lead assistant on Carlisle’s staff the past three season, was disappointed his club couldn’t find a way to contain Mahinmi.
“We needed scoring, but on the other end we’ve got to get stops and make sure our rotations are closing out to touch,’’ Casey said. “Ian’s a nice player, but we can’t let him come in and affect the game.
“We’ve got to respect and get our rotations crisp on him. So we had some breakdowns defensively on people other than a buy by the name of Dirk Nowitzki. We expect that form him, but not from somebody else.’’
This was the final game of the 2011 calendar year for the Mavs, who play at Minnesota on New Year’s Day. The Mavs are just happy they finally were able to put together four quarters after dropping Thursday’s game at Oklahoma City (104-102) on a three-point basket at the buzzer by Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
“Tonight is probably a template for how we’re going to have to play a lot of nights,’’ Carlisle said. “Eleven guys played when it counted.
“(Brian) Cardinal went in the game with three-four minutes left in crunch time and went out there and really played perfectly. We need that.’’
The Mavs also needed a win in the worst possible way. With back-to-back games coming Sunday in Minnesota and at home Monday against Oklahoma City, the schedule-maker has been unforgiving in this truncated 66-game season.
“Take a look at the schedule,’’ Carlisle said. “It looks like a Major League Baseball schedule. There’s a jillion games.
“We can’t have hangovers on losses or wins. Games are going to be hard all year.’’
-- Dwain Price
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