Butler leads balanced Timberwolves over Mavericks
DALLAS — After limping through a first half devoid of energy and focus, the message delivered by Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau in the locker room was rather simple.
“Try,” he said. “We knew we played poorly in the first half. We were disappointed in the way we played. The second half, the biggest adjustment wasn’t schematic, it was bringing the right intensity to the game.”
The Timberwolves (10-5) looked like the team they’ve been all season in storming back from a 14-point deficit to rout the Dallas Mavericks 111-87 Friday night at American Airlines Center.
Jimmy Butler scored 21 and Andrew Wiggins added 19 points to lead a balanced attack that had six players score in double figures, including all five starters. Karl-Anthony Towns (15 points and 11 rebounds), Jeff Teague (15 points and 10 assists) and Taj Gibson (10 points and 11 rebounds) each notched double-doubles. Jamal Crawford scored 12 off the bench.
Minnesota, five games over .500 for the first time since 2005, found itself down 57-43 early in the third quarter before reeling off a 21-4 run to take the lead for good.
Dallas was still within three points (81-78) less than four minutes into the fourth, but the Wolves put the game away with a 12-0 spurt to beat the Mavs for the second time this season.
“They came out with a lot of energy, they hit us hard early,” Thibodeau said. “We were fortunate we responded in the second half, I thought we played well on both ends in the second half.”
Minnesota, winners of three in a row, clamped down defensively and found an offensive rhythm in outscoring Dallas 68-32 in the second half. The Wolves shot 62.5 percent (25-40) after halftime.
“No adjustments, we just upped the intensity on defense,” Crawford said. “Once we did that, we were able to get easier transition baskets and the game kind of turned around for us.”
Harrison scored 18 to lead the Mavericks, but was virtually shut down after the break. Dirk Nowitzki added 15 points and seven rebounds. Yogi Ferrell scored 10.
Nowitzki did pass Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth place on the NBA’s all-time field-goals made list (and first among international players) at 10,750 on a 20-foot jumper in second quarter.
Dallas (2-14) lost its fourth straight to continue its worst start since Nowitzki entered the league 20 years ago.
“You’ve got to keep rolling, you’ve got to keep fighting, keep lugging, keep pushing,” Nowitzki said. “Keep fresh guys out there that go after it — that’s the only way to push through a losing streak.”
Mavs rookie Dennis Smith Jr. struggled all night against Teague, scoring just eight points of 3-12 shooting with four assists and three turnovers.
Dallas shot only 37.2 percent from the floor, including 21.1 percent from 3-point territory.
“We just struggled in the third,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “We scored the first two points to go 14 ahead, and that was great. But then things just went downhill. I know we had quite a few good looks that didn’t go down.”
Dallas started strong, opening as much as a 10-point lead in the first period. That ballooned to 14 in the second as the Mavs continued to get easy looks in the paint.
They took a 55-43 advantage into the half behind 15 points from Barnes.
The Mavs complete a home back-to-back Saturday against Milwaukee. Minnesota returns home Sunday to face Detroit.
NOTES: Dallas signed rookie G/F Antonius Cleveland to a two-way contract and waived G Gian Clavell. Antonius, undrafted out of Southeast Missouri State, played on Portland’s summer league team and spent preseason with Golden State. He played seven minutes and scored two points. ... Minnesota C Karl-Anthony Towns said he loves playing against Mavs C Dirk Nowitzki. “Get a chance to go out there and learn just by experience going up against him,” Towns said. ... Mavs rookie F Max Kleber made his first career start, going scoreless in 27 minutes. ... Dallas G Devin Harris returned after missing two games with bruised ribs.