The Dallas Mavericks have had ample opportunity to improve the much-hyped “clutch” metric this season and failed, but broke their streak of losing close games on Tuesday with a 95-89 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
The rating is determined by a team’s record in games determined by five or fewer points and after falling to Minnesota earlier in the week, Dallas refused to let this one slip away.
Dallas picked up its eighth win of the season through a solid defensive performance, limiting San Antonio to just 40% shooting and 25% from deep. The Spurs did themselves no favors from the fould line, shooting just 63%.
The Mavericks had five players score in double figures with Harrison Barnes leading the way (17 points) and Wesley Matthews, Yogi Ferrell and J.J. Barea all finishing with 16. Dwight Powell finished with 12 and was crucial down the stretch for Dallas.
Dallas built a 30-23 lead in the first and weathered a subpar shooting effort in the second quarter to hold a 46-44 advantage at the break.
The Spurs clawed back to take a seven-point lead in the third quarter, but the Mavs held their ground.
“I told them, look, these games are a mental test,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I said we’ve got to stick with it.”
Ferrell and Barea, despite being the smallest Mavericks on the floor combined for 14 rebounds, a huge factor in helping Dallas match the bigger Spurs on the glass, 49-49.
“When we can stay even or better on the boards and be a plus in the turnover area, it helps the cause,” Carlisle said.
Dallas had just six turnovers in the contest. Barea hit two acrobatic shots down the stretch and Matthews had a key three from the top of the arc as the Spurs were mounting their final run.
Despite being limited by a minutes restriction, Leonard helped the Spurs stay within striking distance early with 13 points in just 15 minutes. Dallas rookie and recent Texas Legends call-up was charged with guarding the rangy superstar and managed to get a block and score five points in seven minutes of action.
The Mavericks travel to play Golden State on Thursday before heading to San Antonio on Saturday to wrap up the season series with the Spurs.
Dennis Smith Jr. sat out with a hip injury. He is expected to miss the next two games for Dallas before being re-evaluated. Seth Curry also did not play and there is no timetable for his return from his stress reaction injury.
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