DALLAS —David West hardly said a word the last two days. That meant trouble for the Dallas Mavericks.
West let out his pent-up frustration over a poor Game 3 with a determined effort in Game 4, scoring 10 of his 24 points in a quick stretch early in the second half to help the New Orleans Hornets pull away for a 97-84 victory Sunday and a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
“Everything was stirring up in him,” coach Byron Scott said. “He wasn’t going to play the way he played in Game 3. We were banking on that. He was in an aggressive mind-set from the start and he came up big.”
The Hornets hadn’t won in Dallas over 14 tries since January 1998. This victory means they might not have to come back until next season. They can eliminate the Mavericks by winning Game 5 on Tuesday night in New Orleans.
“You want to see if you can hopefully take their life away right from the start,” Scott said. “They’ve got a veteran team so it won’t be easy.”
Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Terry scored 20 points, but they didn’t get much help. Josh Howard was 3-for-16 and Jason Kidd had only three points, three assists and four rebounds before getting ejected with 7:16 left for a flagrant foul on Jannero Pargo. Thousands of fans bailed out soon after, then a guy down the row from team owner Mark Cuban got tossed, too.
The meltdown—in this game, in this series and since being up 2-0 on Miami in the finals two years ago—might end up costing coach Avery Johnson his job. His Mavs went from scoring 30 points in the first quarter to 40 in the entire second half, putting them on the brink of a second straight first-round exit.
“I don’t really have an answer for it,” said Nowitzki, exhaling loudly and running his hand through his hair in frustration. “All season long, we’ve lost leads way too quick. … Everybody has to be in attack mode. You have to make shots to win in this league.”
Chris Paul again wasn’t as dominant as he was the first two games in New Orleans, but still played a big role in getting the first road win of his playoff career, notching 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points and Julian Wright added 11, including a tremendous dunk off a midcourt steal of Jerry Stackhouse, a play that emphasized the difference in the age and athleticism of these teams.
Pargo also scored 11 and Morris Peterson had 10, as the Hornets hit 50 percent of their shots.
West was 10-of-21, but the most important part came at the start of the second half, when New Orleans turned a 48-44 halftime lead into a 64-51 advantage.
West made all four shots he took in that spurt and added a pair of free throws. All came against Erick Dampier, including a 1-hander that prompted an immediate timeout by Johnson and a huge chest bump from Paul. West never hit anything like that in Game 3, when he started 3-of-14 and finished 6-of-20.
“West just took over in the third quarter,” Johnson said. “He dominated us.”
Several Hornets said Saturday they thought they’d taken Dallas’ best shot in Game 3 and could handle it from here. It sure didn’t seem like it when the Mavericks came out taking turns going to the basket and getting out in transition. They didn’t take many jumpers, but hit most they did take, and were up 32-23 early in the second quarter. Then Johnson had to dip deeper into his bench and it all fell apart.
Even with Pargo running the offense instead of Paul, the Hornets went on a 15-2 run to regain the lead, with Wright’s big dunk coming in that spurt.
“I thought after the first quarter, everything we talked about worked,” Scott said. “Our running game got going and that’s why we won this game.”
Johnson went back to his starters, but they played the rest of the half as if they’d used up their allotment of time in the paint during the first quarter, settling for jumpers. The best evidence was their free throws—not a single one in the period. They shot just 16 for the game, after averaging 38.3 over the first three games.
“We just got kind of got stuck in the second quarter,” Johnson said. “They were more aggressive and we went to old habits and we paid for it.”