Veteran duo provides Mavs with spark
Reserves Jason Terry and Tim Thomas share an aggressive mentality that clicks
HOUSTON -- All Jason Terry could think while sitting on the bench at the beginning of Wednesday night's game was, not again.
The night after an awful home loss to the undermanned Golden State Warriors, the Dallas Mavericks came out with another lifeless effort Wednesday in Houston. The wake-up call came when coach Rick Carlisle went to the bench.
It didn't take long for the Mavericks to turn the contest at the Toyota Center into a laugher in their favor, running the Houston Rockets out of their own gym en route to a 130-99 victory.
"My mindset was aggressive from the beginning, especially coming off last night," said Jason Terry, who lit up the Rockets for 27 points and a season-high 10 assists. "We didn't want to have a similar performance. Regardless of if they had got down or not, I was coming in with the same mentality: Be aggressive, get going."
Terry, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, had a reserve sidekick with the same mentality. Veteran forward Tim Thomas was terrific in his fourth game as a Maverick. Thomas, whose season debut was delayed by arthroscopic knee surgery in September, poured in 23 points in 24 minutes off the pine.
Combined totals for the two vets off the bench: 50 points on 19-of-24 shooting.
"Jet was on fire all night, finally looking like the Jet of old," said Dirk Nowitzki, who added 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting despite a slow start. "Then Tim was phenomenal. It was fun to watch."
The game changed when Terry and Thomas took off their warm-ups midway through the first quarter. After spotting the Rockets a 13-point lead, the Mavs suddenly started rolling, reeling off 26 consecutive points.
The Rockets never mounted a serious rally.
Terry, a hero of the Mavs' 2005 playoff series comeback win over the Rockets, simply took over after subbing in for rookie Rodrigue Beaubois. He had 10 points and four assists during the 26-0 spurt, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers on the Mavs' final two possessions of the first quarter.
Thomas added eight points during the run, which he capped with a 3-pointer off a feed from Terry to open the second quarter.
It hasn't taken long for Thomas, a 13-year veteran who came to Dallas on a one-year minimum contract, to get comfortable with the Mavericks. He's averaging 11.3 points on 60 percent shooting in 19 minutes per game despite little practice time and playing all three frontcourt positions.
"I'm a veteran player. I've been around," said Thomas, who wanted to play for a winner after splitting time between the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks last season. "In this situation, we have a group of veteran guys who know how to play. That's the key. You just go out there and play simple, solid basketball."
Terry and Thomas (cheesy nickname suggestion: TNT) haven't played many minutes together, but it's clear that their games click. The majority of Terry's assists were to Thomas, whose perimeter shooting ability (4-of-8 on 3s versus the Rockets) helps space the floor for Terry to operate.
"If he was white, he'd be Dirk," Terry cracked when asked how he meshed so well, so quickly with Thomas, referring to the threat the sweet-shooting big men pose on pick-and-rolls.
The 6-10, 240-pound Thomas threw down a vicious putback slam on Houston's Shane Battier at the end of the third quarter. Thomas got a questionable technical foul for a stare-down after the slam, but the play symbolized the nastiness he's added to the Mavs mix.
It's that mentality, more so than the eye-popping offensive numbers, that thrills Carlisle about Thomas' contribution. The coach pointed out that Thomas takes more hard fouls than any other Maverick.
"He brings a playoff mentality to our team," Carlisle said. "It's evident. He's a good player and he wants to win. That's why he's here."
If the Dallas bench plays anywhere close to as well as it did in Houston, the Mavs will win a whole bunch.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.