Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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Last night, the Dallas Mavericks (39-20) defeated the Toronto Raptors 99-92 at the American Airlines Centers to finish out an undefeated three-game home stand. The Mavs struggled for most of the game, battling back from a 13-point deficient led by Monta Ellis who had a game-high 20 points and Dirk Nowitzki who chipped in 18 points and nine rebounds. The Mavs were forced to play much of the game from behind, struggling to get going on the offensive end; but were able to keep things within reach with a solid defensive effort, including 13 steals.

“They’re playing their fourth game in five nights, so they’re a little worn down,” said Head Coach Rick Carlisle. “We just needed to keep the pressure on them and we had to keep attacking, which we did.”

The Raptors, led by 18 points from shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, were gassed by the end of the third quarter and only managed to put up 15 points in the fourth. However, the most pivotal moment of the game came with 8:10 left in the third quarter when Rajon Rondo appeared to have ignored (or maybe he didn’t hear) a play-call from Rick Carlisle. An infuriated Carlisle immediately called a timeout and Rondo and Carlisle began shouting some obvious unpleasantries towards one another – which was all caught by TV cameras.

“Well, it’s an emotional game and we had a difference of opinion. There was an exchange, and then, in my mind, it was over.” Carlisle said after the game.


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

But, it clearly wasn’t over. After the spat, Rondo didn’t see the court for the rest of the game and appeared disinterested and removed from the team. Carlisle called the benching a “coach’s decision.” Rondo didn’t have much to say to the media following the game, telling reporters to discuss the incident with Rick, and then bolted the locker room. He also reportedly appeared to have irritably thrown his jersey towards some fans, who didn’t seems to mind, after game.

Nevertheless, the Rondo benching seemed to have fueled a fire of energy and emotions for the Mavs in the third quarter. Devin Harris gladly picked up the slack in Rondo’s absence, finishing the game with 14 points including five assists and JJ Barea added 13. The Mavs had a 23-8 run at the end of the third, and sealed the deal with an 11-1 run in the fourth en route to their third straight victory.

Up Next: Mavs vs Jazz

After defeating the second best team in the East, the Mavs will now be rewarded with a match-up against the best team in the East, the Atlanta Hawks (44-12) on the second night of a back-to-back. The Mavs, who are a respectable 9-4 in the finales of back-to-backs this season, saving grace may come with postponement of tonight’s game due inclement weather in the metro Atlanta area, where they are expected to received as much as 4-8 inches of snow. An extra day of rest couldn’t come at a better time for the Mavs, who could use some time to recover both physically and mentally after the last night’s game.

While Atlanta holds a 7.5 game lead over the second seeded Toronto Raptors, they have struggled of late losing four of their last seven. They come into tonight’s game on a couple days of rest, after narrowly defeating the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon.

Match Up to Watch For: Point Guards

It will be intriguing to see how Rondo responds after the Mavs proved  not only win can they win without him, but that Rick Carlisle isn’t afraid to bench him. Carlisle has already indicated that Rondo will remain the starting point guard, but Devin Harris seems to be motivated by the opportunity to show he’s more than just a backup.

In the last meeting between the two clubs, Atlanta Hawks backup point guard Dennis Schroder shredded the Mavs on their home court for 22 points, in place of Jeff Teague, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. Between Teague (16.8 points, 7.3 assists) and the 21 year-old, German-born Schroder (8.5 points, 3.6 assists) the Mavs will have their hands full against these quick, athletic guards.


AP Photo/Jim Cowsert


The Hawks lead the all-time series against the Mavs 35-32. The Mavericks have won 21 of the last 31 match-ups between the two teams. Hawks will attempt to complete their first season sweep of the Mavericks in 11 years, after defeating Dallas 105-102 in their first meeting this season on December 22.

Projected Starters

Richard Jefferson (5.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.8 apg)
Dirk Nowitzki (17.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg)
Tyson Chandler (10.6 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
Monta Ellis (19.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.4 apg)
Rajon Rondo (8.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 8.3 apg)

DeMarre Carroll (11.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.5 apg)
Paul Millsap (16.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.0 apg)
Al Horford (15.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
Kyle Korver (12.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.7 apg)
Jeff Teague (16.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 7.3 apg)

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