DALLAS — Tyson Chandler insisted his desire to nip the Dallas Mavericks’ losing streak in the bud fueled his motivation Wednesday night, not the fact that he was facing his former team for the first time since his less-than-friendly departure from the New York Knicks.
Believe it or not, the big man wasn’t hooked up to a polygraph test after his 17-point, 25-rebound performance.
If you wanted the truth, all you had to do was ask any of Chandler’s teammates.
“We were actually talking about before the game that we had to shoot him with a tranquilizer gun to slow him down a little bit,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He was obviously amped up for this one. And we wanted to get this one for him.”
It wasn’t pretty, to put it politely, but the Mavs got the win over the Melo-less Knicks. They had to go five extra minutes, pulling out the 109-102 victory in overtime at the American Airlines Center. And Dallas needed everything the 7-foot champion warriors who were reunited this summer could give them.
[+] EnlargeChandler, who was barking even more than usual in the Mavs’ huddles, was a dominant presence from the opening tip, scoring the game’s first bucket on a ferocious putback slam. He had a double-double by halftime, already hitting his per game averages.
Chandler’s last bucket was a thunderous, two-hand slam to give the Mavs the lead for good with 1:37 to go in overtime. After the Knicks called timeout, Chandler unleashed a primal scream, tiling his head toward the rafters where that 2011 title banner hangs and releasing emotions he refused to admit feeling.
“Like I said, this is more important because we dropped two and we felt this is one we wanted to get,” Chandler said.
We’re talking about the spiritual leader of the Mavs’ title team who spent his last three seasons in New York, recently acknowledged feeling like a scapegoat for the Knicks’ struggles last season and was steamed that Knicks president Phil Jackson took a passive-aggressive shot at his character and professionalism after the deal to send Chandler back to Dallas.
“I mean, he’s cool,” Nowitzki said before poking a little fun at Chandler’s postgame look that featured a unique hat and accessory. “He’s playing it cool with the match in his hat. I mean, what is that? That’s terrible.”
Chandler’s performance was terrific, as good as any he’s had in a Mavs uniform, including the title season.
Chandler ended up setting new season highs in points and rebounds. Nobody in the NBA has pulled down more boards in a game this season, and it matches the fifth-most in Mavericks history.
Ten of Chandler’s rebounds came on the offensive glass. Of course, the Mavs provided plenty of offensive-rebound opportunities, shooting 40 percent from the floor, including a sickly 4-of-31 showing from 3-point range.
Nowitzki wasn’t immune from the long-distance drought, making only one of his eight 3-point attempts. But the big German hit big shot after big shot inside the arc, scoring 15 of his season-high 30 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The 36-year-old who logged a season-high 39 minutes delivered the Dirk dagger, exploiting a mismatch with a midrange fadeaway over Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni to make it a two-possession game with 43.9 seconds remaining.
“Vintage Nowitzki,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He was struggling from the 3 as well, but it was his will that kind of carried us.”
With the wills of their 7-foot champions, the Mavs found a way, and it had to feel especially good for the guy who was gone the last few years.