DALLAS – Coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t stop raving about one of his starters after Saturday’s stunning comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.
No, it wasn’t Dirk Nowitzki, the dude who scored eight of his season-high-tying 35 points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winning bucket.
Carlisle kept gushing about how proud he was of O.J. Mayo, the guy who finished the game with four points on 1-of-13 shooting.
“Here’s a guy who is banged up, and I just thought he was totally engaged in the game and did a lot of things even though he didn’t shoot the ball well,” Carlisle said. “If we’re going to get where we want to get in the next nine games, the example that he set out there today is really important.
“That’s just grit and guts – being totally in and totally committed.”
Mayo is playing through the pain of a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, an injury suffered on a hustle play late in Tuesday’s win over the Clippers and diagnosed by an MRI on Friday. He’s the only Maverick who has played in every game this season.
Mayo played with a harness protecting the shoulder during Thursday’s loss to the Pacers but ditched the restrictive device after the first quarter Saturday afternoon.
“I just said, to heck with it, and just tried to play without it,” said Mayo, whose only bucket was a big one, a driving layup to trim the deficit to six with 1:44 remaining. “If your shot is broke, you at least want to shoot it comfortably. You want to be comfortable shooting a broke shot. You don’t want to be uncomfortable shooting a broke shot.
“But, hey, it was a great win, a win we needed. I’ll get in the gym tomorrow and try to fix that break in my shot and keep playing hard.”
Easter Sunday is officially a day off for the Mavs, but Mayo has work to do.
There’s not much Mayo or the Mavs’ medical staff can do to ease the pain in his shoulder before Tuesday’s critical game against the Lakers.
“It is what it is,” Mayo said. “You’ve got to deal with it. I can still walk, run and communicate out there, so whatever it takes to help us win.”
Mayo managed to help the Mavs win despite an awful shooting outing Saturday, which is why his coach kept praising him.
A few more notes from the Mavs’ thrilling comeback win:
1. Wright big off bench: Brandan Wright’s streak of starting ended after four games, with Elton Brand replacing him in the lineup. Wright responded with his first double-double in a Dallas uniform.
Wright scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed a career-high-tying 13 rebounds in 23 minutes against the Bulls.
“No matter who starts, when you get an opportunity to play your minutes, just play them to the best of your ability,” Wright said. “That’s what it’s been about the whole year. I know it’s been a revolving door at the center position. We know what to do when we get in the game.”
Wright’s last double-double came on April 1, 2011, when his New Jersey Nets lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. Wright noted that the lottery-bound Nets were simply playing out the string at that point.
“This one means much more,” Wright said. “We’re playing for something.”
Wright’s emergence is part of the reason the Mavs are playing for something. After being in and out of the rotation all season, Wright averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game in March, when the Mavs went 11-5.
2. ‘Like a video game’: It appeared early in the fourth quarter that Nate Robinson was going to hog the headlines after this game.
Chicago’s backup point guard caught fire, going on a personal 11-2 run after the Mavs and Bulls entered the fourth quarter tied. Then Robinson drilled a 32-footer, pulling up from near the midcourt logo after tracking down a loose ball with the shot clock ticking down, giving him 14 of his 25 points in span of six minutes.
“He was so on fire that it was almost like a video game,” said Nowitzki, who went into video-game mode down the stretch.
Robinson was 9-of-16 from the floor and 7-of-7 from 3-point range, but his last bucket was that 32-footer. He missed his last two shots, including a jumper at the buzzer that could have sent the game into overtime.
Give Mike James a lot of the credit for cooling off Robinson.
“My teammates looked at me and said, ‘Look, stop asking for help on that screen. Turn that water hose off,’” James said.
3. Rally cry: The Mavs get a day off before leaving for a huge four-game road trip. That trip begins with a must-win game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers before a Thursday date in Denver against the Nuggets and their West-best 33-3 home record.
“Regardless of who the opponents are coming up, it’s just important that we continue to fight and battle and stick together,” Carlisle said. “That’s the rally cry.”