DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves are rapidly heading in different directions in the rugged Western Conference.
The Mavs coasted to their seventh win in 10 games, wasting little time Saturday night in opening a double-digit lead and sending the Wolves skidding to their seventh loss in nine games, 131-117, at American Airlines Center. The final score wasn’t indicative of the mismatch.
For Dallas, it was its third consecutive victory to end a four-game homestand. After losing to Miami on Sunday and hearing coach Rick Carlisle question their competitive spirit, the Mavs won the next three by a combined 75 points.
Meanwhile, the youthful and defensively challenged Wolves, trying to get by without injured point guard Ricky Rubio, lost for the fifth consecutive time, including blowout losses on consecutive nights at New Orleans and Dallas by a combined 62 points.
In those two games, Minnesota surrendered 143 points in the first halves. Dallas shot 52 percent in the first half to take a 63-44 lead into the locker room. Still, Wolves coach Flip Saunders saw bright spots coming out of Friday’s 139-91 debacle against the Pelicans.
“We fell behind. We could have rolled over with no question with what happened last night,” Saunders said. “And our guys fought back, and we found some guys that went out and played with a little bit of energy and so I think there are definitely some things I think we can take from there. And Dallas is a very good team, (and) a good
defensive team. We found a way to shoot 50 percent and score some points. Now we just definitely got to get back — with Ricky out — and work on a lot of things defensively.”
Things didn’t get any better for the Wolves in the second half as the Mavs quickly moved ahead by 26 points in the third quarter. If not for Kevin Martin’s hot hand — a season-high 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting — Dallas might have threatened the franchise record it set Thursday night with its 53-point rout of Philadelphia.
No other Wolves starter scored more than 10 points and it took a late fourth-quarter free-for-all for Anthony Bennett to finally reach double digits.
Give Minnesota this: Saturday’s game was its sixth in a row away from home during a two-week odyssey that included games in two countries. Its only “home” game during the stretch was a loss in Mexico City to the Houston Rockets. On Wednesday, the Wolves will play in the Target Center for the first time since Nov. 1 against the New York Knicks.
“Now we’ve got to go back, we’ve got some days off, we’ve got four games at home, we’ve got to get to business,” Saunders said. “Hopefully our crowds will get there and help us out a little bit and cheer on some of our young guys, and we’ll get some good energy in our building.”
Dallas guard Monta Ellis helped get Dallas to 3-1 on the homestand with a season-high 30 points, 28 coming in the first three quarters.
“Picking my spots and just playing the floor with my team,” Ellis said of how put together an 11-of-21 shooting night. “Once we get the ball moving … my head coach wants me to come off the screen so I just beat the defense.”
He led eight players in double-digits. Forward Dirk Nowitzki had a light night with 15 points in 22 minutes, forward Brandan Wright had 13 points off the bench, former Wolves guard J.J. Barea added 14 points and forward Chandler Parsons had 12 points.
Forward Al-Farouq Aminu was aggressive all night, finishing with 10 points and a couple of slams, plus six rebounds and two blocks. Center Tyson Chandler continued his rebounding onslaught with a season-high 16 to go with 12 points and three blocks.
Dallas shot 55.3 percent overall despite making just 8 of 26 from beyond the arc. The Mavs got to the basket at will and tied a franchise record with 76 points in the paint.
“They didn’t have a lot of rim protection out there,” Carlisle said, stating the obvious.
The Wolves ended up shooting 50 percent overall and despite the large margin of victory, it’s something the Mavs talked about afterward.
“We just need to take it game-by-game, day-by-day,” Ellis said. “It’s the beginning of the season, we have a lot of time to get going and be one on defense. We’re still learning each other, but a lot of guys out there have each other’s back and we’re scrambling a lot. That’s the biggest thing. We know we’re going to miss shots, we just need to get down there and help the big guy (Chandler) rebound.”
Outside of Martin, the Wolves’ top scorers all came off the bench. Guard Mo Williams had 13 points, forward Shabazz Muhammad scored 18 points in 13 minutes and center Gorgui Dieng had 12 points. Struggling starting center Nikola Pekovic played just 11 minutes and had two points and five rebounds.
No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins was a non-factor with five points on 2-of-6 shooting with three rebounds and no assists in 23 minutes. Corey Brewer finished with 13 points after a late flurry as both sides opted to play out the clock without playing any defense.