DALLAS — DeAndre Jordan stood under the basket awaiting some Dallas free throws, the Mavericks pulling away late and most in the crowd of 19,805 loudly chanting a derogatory phrase at the Los Angeles Clippers centre.
The fired-up fans finally got to vent over Jordan backing out on an agreement to sign with the Mavericks in free agency over the summer.
They also got a 118-108 victory Wednesday night, thanks to season highs of 31 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 25 from Wesley Matthews, the free agent who followed through on his pledge to Dallas.
Jordan — booed while warming up before the game, on every touch during it and every time he walked off the floor — had nine points and 11 rebounds with a minus-23 scoring margin while he was in the game.
"They’re obviously going to boo and heckle a little bit, but I thought it was going to be a lot worse," the 6-foot-11 Houston native said. "Ultimately, we came out here to win a basketball game and that was it."
Blake Griffin led Los Angeles with 21 points, and Austin Rivers added 16.
A tight second half upstaged the sideshow of the return of Jordan, who was pulled by coach Doc Rivers during a critical stretch of the fourth quarter with Dallas successfully using the hack-a-Jordan tactic against one of the NBA’s worst free throw shooters.
Zaza Pachulia, the consolation prize at centre after Dallas missed out on Jordan, made two free throws to put the Mavericks ahead for good at 108-106.
"Our guy’s a 90 per cent free-throw shooter," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. After pausing several seconds for effect, he added, "And we love him."
Anti-Jordan signs were plentiful, of course, including one with a pair of flip-flops taped to it, offered to Jordan as a Christmas present.
Another read, "The only thing worse than Jordan’s word is his free throw."
Sure enough, Carlisle ordered three straight fouls on Jordan midway through the fourth quarter with the Clippers holding a slim lead, even risking foul trouble for Nowitzki by having the big German commit two of them.
Jordan missed four of the six attempts — almost right on his 34 per cent shooting for the season — and Rivers pulled his defensive force. By the time Jordan got back in the game, Dallas had gone in front for good. Jordan made three of nine from the line.
Nowitzki was 11 of 14 from the field, including a banked-in 3-pointer that looked like it was way off the mark but instead put the Mavericks ahead 113-108 with 1:05 remaining.
Jordan was booed during pregame shooting free throws, and cheered when he missed. Even when he touched the ball briefly on offence, the howls came quickly. And they grew loud whenever he kept it.
That was the hope of owner Mark Cuban, who slipped a couple of times during his usual pregame media session by using Jordan’s first name. Otherwise, he stuck with his mantra of not using Jordan’s name after the former Texas A&M player shunned the billionaire in the hours after changing his mind.
They still haven’t spoken, but Cuban is trying to sound as if he’s moved on — even though he said he saved the text messages from the saga that played out during the summer.
"It’s not like DeAndre and I pinky-swore," said Cuban, who decided against showing several parody videos prepared for Jordan’s visit. "It’s not like we’ve been friends forever. It’s not like he broke some trust we had."
PARSONS OUT AGAIN
Chandler Parsons, the chief recruiter of Jordan, once again missed a chance to face him. He had yet to make his debut after off-season right knee surgery when the Clippers beat the Mavericks by 16 in Los Angeles the first week of the season. He sat the second night of a back-to-back after a loss at New Orleans because the Mavericks are easing him back into playing shape.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Both of the Rivers got technical fouls — father for arguing with referees in the third quarter and son for taunting after scoring on a layup in the fourth. Griffin also got a technical for shoving Dwight Powell after one of Jordan’s missed free throws.
Clippers: Chris Paul finished with 11 assists to surpass 7,000 for his career, finishing at 7,006. He’s the 15th player to reach the milestone, doing it in 706 games for the fourth-fastest behind John Stockton (625), Magic Johnson (637) and Oscar Robertson (667). … J.J. Redick left the game with back spasms in the first half and didn’t return.
Mavericks: Nowitzki passed former teammate Shawn Marion for 15th on the career rebounding list. He finished with a team-high 11 for 10,111 for his career. … Pachulia had his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Clippers: Visit Phoenix on Thursday night.
Mavericks: Host Lakers on Friday night.