NEW ORLEANS -- How did Jose Calderon feel after playing a back-to-back on a bad ankle?
"Not great," said the Dallas Mavericks point guard. "But it’s done. It’s done, and now I’ve got three days until Saturday. That’s what I was looking for. It’s good that we got a huge win for us as a team and happy to go through this back-to-back like that.
"I knew it was going to be tough, but it’s good. Good enough."
Calderon, who suffered a bone bruise in his right ankle Friday night that caused him to miss one game, was limping noticeably as he left the American Airlines Center following Tuesday night’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats, and he was clearly hobbled during Wednesday night’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
A point guard as explosive as Jrue Holiday is going to be a tough cover for Calderon under any circumstances, but that assignment was almost unfair with Calderon playing on one good leg. Holiday lit up the Mavs for 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting and nine assists.
Meanwhile, Calderon couldn’t hit a shot for most of the night. He misfired on seven of his first eight 3-point attempts.
But he then drilled a pair of clutch treys late in the fourth quarter. His 3 with 5:22 remaining gave the Mavs a five-point lead. His 3 with 3:34 to go put the Mavs up two, and they never trailed again.
"I told him in the fourth quarter, 'You’re going to have a couple of daggers for us,'" Dirk Nowitzki said. "I just knew he was going to be open on the weak side a couple of times, and he stepped right into them."
If Calderon didn’t take those shots, he’d have heard about it from coaches and teammates. They frequently tell Calderon, who led the league in 3-point percentage last season and ranked sixth in the NBA entering the game at 49.5 percent this season, that he doesn’t look for his shot enough. It’s a sin for him to turn down an open look, no matter how many he’s missed.
"I know the team is looking for that," said Calderon, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting and four assists. "If they keep helping off me, I’ve got to shoot those 3s. That’s all I can do. I was confident. I’ve been shooting those 3s really well. I got those two in the fourth quarter to help the team, and it was good, finally."
Calderon wasn’t at his best the past two nights, but he earned a lot of respect in the locker room by gutting it out and helping the Mavs get two much-needed wins.
"Not 100 percent, but he’s giving us what he has, and it’s really helped us the last two nights," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We don’t win these games without him."
Center swap: Carlisle described the decision to start DeJuan Blair over Samuel Dalembert at center as "matchup driven," saying he didn’t think it suited Dalembert to defend a jump-shooting big man like New Orleans’ Jason Smith.
He’ll get no complaints from Dalembert.
"It’s whatever is best for the team," said Dalembert, who contributed six points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 19 minutes off the bench. "I have no ego. If the coach thinks that’s the best thing to do, it’s the best thing to do."
Blair had 12 points -- all in the first half -- along with four rebounds and a blocked shot in 29 minutes.
Dirk’s defensive dominance? Put this game on the short list of the best defensive performances of Nowitzki’s career.
Not that there’s a long list.
Nowitzki had four blocks and two steals and helped hold a previously red-hot New Orleans power forward Ryan Anderson to 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting. His last block came on a potential go-ahead drive by Eric Gordon with 10.9 seconds remaining.
It was only the 14th four-block, two-steal performance of Nowitzki’s 16-year career and the first since December 2010, prompting a joking suggestion that he could be a defensive player of the year candidate.
"It’s a little early," Nowitzki said with a grin. "I've been doing it for a month or so now, but it’s got to get a little more consistent."
"Maybe a day," Nowitzki said.