DALLAS — A matchup pairing the Washington Wizards and the Dallas Mavericks means a scoring battle between two of the league’s best, the Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas and the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki.
Determining the outcome is a matter of which player’s supporting cast shows up. And last night at American Airlines Arena, Nowitzki’s teammates gave him a sizable advantage as the Mavericks handed the Wizards a 107-80 defeat — their worst of the season.
The Wizards fell to 0-5 on the road after scoring a season low in Dallas.
Arenas scored 29 to lead the 4-6 Wizards. He began the night by making six of his first nine shots but missed 13 of his last 16 attempts.
Caron Butler finished with 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the Wizards, who were outrebounded 57-43. DeShawn Stevenson scored 10 points, and Antawn Jamison was just 4-for-12 for nine points and nine rebounds.
Nowitzki, meanwhile, finished with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out five assists, which was half the number totaled by Washington (10). The Mavericks have won seven straight game after starting the season 0-4.
While Nowitzki shined for the Mavericks, he was not alone. Guards Jason Terry and Devin Harris finished with 18 points apiece. And reserves Austin Croshere (14 points, six rebounds) and Greg Buckner (11 points) helped give the Mavericks a 32-14 advantage in bench scoring.
The Wizards’ problems — ball movement and sharing the ball — weren’t evident until the second half.
“We have to recognize that we’re only successful when everyone is getting involved and everyone is being aggressive. That’s the only way we can win,” Butler said. “We have to move the ball and trust the offense, and when we do that it’s a beautiful thing to watch. If you watched the first half you saw that.”
The game was tied at 51-51 at halftime, and the Wizards looked capable of becoming the first Eastern Conference team in 21 attempts to beat the Mavericks here.
But the Mavericks built an 84-64 lead with a 29-8 run that stretched from the third quarter into the fourth quarter.
The onslaught began with 9:29 left in the third, right after Arenas gave the Wizards a 58-55 lead with a 3-pointer.
That was the second and last basket of the period by the Wizards, who shot just 2-for-14 from the floor (14.3 percent) in the third. The Wizards went a little more than 10 minutes without a basket, finally getting one when Stevenson scored on a finger roll with a little more than 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“The cream rose to the top tonight,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They made their shots, and we didn’t — we couldn’t step up.”
That, according to Jordan, had more to do with the Mavericks than the Wizards.