*Once again the Mavericks found themselves hoping to keep streaks alive, rather than busted. The New Jersey Nets arrived in Dallas on Thursday night with a few familiar faces, and a five-game losing streak in tow. Before the night was over, Dallas may have exorcised at least one demon with a 102-89 victory … and that makes 11 in a row.
*Prior to the game, there was a certain buzz in the air as a former prominent member of the Mavs organization (or two) entered the arena carrying the flag of another team. It was on the Dallas player's lips and minds, in the hearts and words of fans and in the feeding of the night's anticipation and the day's debate.
Who knew Kris Humphries had gained so many local fans?
In truth, though this did mark a return for Humphries, it was also the first chance for one-time Mavs coach Avery Johnson to lead his new team against his former … not to mention the fodder for cyclical debate on the merits of the Devin Harris for Jason Kidd trade almost three years ago.
Harris did receive a warm reception from the Dallas crowd, more so than Avery (though the reaction was positive to both), before having his night promptly ended when he sprained his left shoulder contesting a pass to Tyson Chandler in the first quarter.
"It didn't feel good. One part of my body that I wish I couldn't hit was my left shoulder. It was a tough play … I was going to give it a go, but coach thought otherwise." Harris said of the injury after the game.
As to what that coach had to say on the experience of returning to Dallas …
"It was pretty emotional. A lot of friends and family are here tonight that I am going to visit with here in a second. But, it was good seeing some of the guys." Johnson said. "Dirk came over and said hello before and after the game. Jason Terry and I had a chance to visit with Mark (Cuban) after the game, and a lot of people that meant a lot to me both as a player and a coach."
*Mirroring the Mavs 10-game winning streak coming into the night, New Jersey had lost 10 straight to Dallas … having not beaten Dallas since March 2, 2000.
We'll start with Marion. In the first half he went 6-of-6 from the floor on his way to 14 points, three rebounds and a block. Though he had a lesser statistical scoring impact in the second half, he continued to affect the game at both ends … including four steals after the half … and again played the entire fourth quarter while Butler remained on the bench.
Marion finished with 18 points (8-of-10), six rebounds, four steals and a block.
Caron was hot early and had 13 points at the half on 6-of-9 shooting, and throughout his time on the court. Butler finished with 15 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks in just under 27 minutes of action.
When asked about the meaning of this game to some of the guys, such as Dirk and Jason Terry, Caron said, "They didn't say anything. They came in with the same routine, same rituals, and everything. I didn't see anything, but obviously I know being on other teams and when you come back to the places you want to win and a little bit in you that's got a little extra fire. We're just happy to get the win for them."
*Caron wasn't the only player to sit out the entire fourth quarter.
With Utah looming for Saturday night, and JJ Barea having one of his best all-around games of the season, Jason Kidd also sat out the entire fourth and totaled only 26 minutes.
Kidd finished with six points, including a big 3 to close the first half with an exclamation point, eight assists, and three steals.
*Now, to what allowed get to gather that rest: the play of JJ Barea.
Though he continues to have no accuracy from behind the arc -- he lowered his already-low 15.2-percent 3-point shooting by going 0-of-3 -- Barea helped ensure the victory by fighting away the doldrums that seemed to swallow the Mavs in the third quarter after building a 21-point lead.
"Yeah, JJ had it going on. He was doing a great job of getting to the paint, creating for others, and I'm definitely proud of him," Butler said.
Along the way, Barea set a new career high for assists at 13, including five in the final quarter. Perhaps the most impressive of these came in the final quarter when Barea found Ian Mahinmi wide open beneath the rim for an easy dunk with a pretty look-away pass to put the Mavs back up 14.
*During the third quarter, New Jersey went on a 27-to-10 run and closed to within five points in a game that had long appeared over … after scoring first on a Humphries dunk, the Nets never led again.
Dallas rebounded to close the quarter with a 9-to-4 run and push the lead back to 10.
Even amidst the surge of that run, the Nets could not find the shots they needed … at least not from the floor … as they shot 41.2-percent for the quarter.
Unfortunately, they did find their points elsewhere when the game slowed to a crawl as the whistles beat down on any flow or pace that had developed … sending the Nets to the line 18 times in the third quarter alone, where they converted 15 attempts.
*Perhaps still feeling the effects of a stomach illness that kept him out of Tuesday's game against the Warriors, and constant a constant battle with foul trouble, Tyson Chandler did not have one of his better games. In 22 minutes he put up two points on an uncharacteristic 1-of-5 from the floor, to go with five rebounds, one steal and five fouls.
After Tuesday's inability to do so, it was good to see Brendan Haywood capitalize on the chance at early minutes. Haywood appeared energetic and motivated on his way to four points, five rebounds and a block in his first 10 minutes of play. … and he finished with nine points and eight boards in 18 minutes.
With the ball, Haywood was aggressive to the rim, including muscling through Humphries for a dunk lat in the first quarter. Without it, he did something Chandler had been unable to do to start the game … he slowed budding star Brook Lopez. Big Wood's work was part of Dallas outscoring the NJ bench 52-24.
*Dirk: 21 and 10. And you almost forget to write about it.
*The Mavs set a season-high with 31 assists as a team. Maybe it takes that sort of unselfishness to get to 11 consecutive wins. And to get to 18-4. And to get to 1,225-1,225, which is the all-time mark for the Mavs franchise … a long climb to .500 with hopefully more climbing to come.