NEW ORLEANS — The unrelenting grind of an 82-game NBA regular season requires a coach to be boldly creative in the decisions he makes in resting his best players.
One night after four of his starters played more than 40 minutes in a double-overtime victory over the Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle gambled Wednesday night by resting forward Dirk Nowitzki, guards Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews and center Zaza Pachulia.
The Mavericks still pulled out a 100-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center.
“We are deep,” Carlisle said after the Mavs’ grind-it-out victory. “You never like sitting down four starters, but we did feel it was necessary. We also felt we had enough to win the game if we played the right way.”
In holding the Pelicans to 37 percent shooting and 41 second-half points, the Mavericks (21-15) broke open the game with an 18-5 run in the third quarter and never allowed New Orleans to get closer than six points in the final nine minutes.
The four rested starters normally account for 55 percent of Dallas’ 102 points per game, but their absence did not matter.
Mavs guard Raymond Felton scored a team-high 22 points, including a
desperation 3-point heave that beat the shot clock and iced the game with 41.5 second left. Forward Chandler Parsons, Dallas’ lone available starter, scored 21, with 19 coming in the first half.
“This is a huge win for us,” said Parsons, who also could have opted out of the starting lineup due to a sore hip. “We understood that a lot of our guys were sitting tonight, so it seemed to give other guys opportunities, and they stepped up. We played together and played unselfish.”
Felton scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and all four of his free throws. He said the victory proved the Mavericks have a long bench. Forward Dwight Powell had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Devin Harris had 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“It shows the type of team we have and how deep we are,” Felton said. “Guys stepping up. It just shows how special this team is and how special this team can be once we get it all together. I think we have a chance to do some special things with this team.”
New Orleans (11-23) was led by forward Anthony Davis, who scored a game-high 26 points but just eight in the second half. Davis did not record his first field goal of the second half until 8:14 left in the game. Guard Tyreke Evans added 16 points for New Orleans.
Dallas outscored the Pelicans 9-2 to open the fourth quarter to take an 80-70 lead. Powell had a dunk and 15-foot jumper, and guard J.J. Barea added a 3-pointer from the right wing to do the damage.
“It says a lot about our team just hanging in there,” Barea said.
New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry was at a loss to explain what happened. The Pelicans entered the game 7-7 at home and were looking to begin a winning streak after beating the Mavericks on the road last Saturday.
“I wish I had answers,” Gentry said. “I don’t have answers, but we’re going to come up with answers. It’s not fair to the fans. It’s not fair for anybody for us to come out and have that kind of effort. I’m really disappointed in the way we approached the game. We tried time and again to say that it doesn’t matter who is playing and who is not playing.”
Davis said losing to a team that rested its four best players was akin to a slap in the face.
“It’s frustrating, more so the fact that we had the opportunity to move up in the rankings, but we just can never seem to do it,” Davis said. “It’s not like we’re 15 games behind; (it’s) four games, five games. We just never get over that hump. It’s mostly frustrating, but I know we can do it.”
Carlisle called the victory “a fun thing.”
“This is one of those situations where you can be opportunistic,” he said. “Guys that haven’t played as much step up into bigger roles. It’s a big win.”