Dallas' beleaguered backup center offered up his first 10-point game since Halloween and was one of seven Mavs in double-figures as in a battle of 30-win teams, Dallas stormed past the Hawks, 102-91.
"Haywood was a major factor,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of the game's surprising hero, who was re-signed by the Mavs to an $8.3-million-a-year deal to be the starting center before the club acquired Tyson Chandler, who is now the starter and playing at an All-Star level. "He made free throws, he got rebounds, and he gave us a physical presence under the basket.''
Chandler was asked for a singular key to the win.
"Brendan Haywood,'' he said simply.
Big Wood scored five points in the first two minutes of the final period, no small reason Dallas found itself down 78-77 to start the quarter but three minutes later was up 87-79. … and eventually was able to mount a 14-1 run to begin the quarter.
Haywood's line: 2-of-2 from the floor, 6-of-9 from the line, five boards, a steal, a block and even four fouls delivered in an energetic manner – and he was so effective that he remained on the floor for all the way to the 3:10 mark of the fourth quarter, Dallas opting to milk this for all it could before letting Chandler seal the deal against a Hawks team that played Dallas even for three quarters but couldn't manage a fourth-quarter field goal until the 6:35 mark.
DJ Spinderella deserves some fitting musical credit for spinning Queen's "Under Pressure'' before the game – motivating the often somber Haywood to stage his own on-court pregame Karaoke contest with himself.
"Can't we give ourselves one more chance?'' Haywood crooned, rather presciently.
The Mavs (31-15) usually succeed in their chances against Atlanta, which is 30-18 but has now lost 19 of the last 25 meetings with Dallas, including being victimized for this season's two-game sweep.
The Mavs are in the middle of roster juggling (they started 10-day contract swingman Sasha Pavlovic but then waived him after the game and they are not planning on taking newcomer Peja Stojakovic with them on next week's road trip) but are also in the middle of a four-game winning streak. Balance has been key, with back-to-back games in which they boasted seven double-figure scorers. There is right now no overreliance on Dirk Nowitzki (19 points as he continued to work through a problem with his sprained knee).
Jason Terry (18 points and a season-high 11 assists) just notched his first double-double of the season. Jason Kidd was in that territory (with 12 points and eight rebounds) and suddenly, the Mavs have won five of six after having endured a six-game losing streak.
The Dallas Mavericks have a terrific opportunity to continue rolling as its next game, and final one of this four-game homestand, is Monday against a Washington Wizards team that enters the weekend having lost all of its road games this season.
Haywood's former team is the Wizards, so maybe he'll be inspired again. And maybe Queen songs are the trick, because joining Haywood in pregame Karaoke was Nowitzki himself, who made a show out of mouthing another Queen hit:
"Another One Bites The Dust.''