Mavs Accept Orlando 'Welcome Mat' In Win

Outside of the AAC, for the Mavs, Orlando really is home to 'The Happiest Place On Earth.' On Saturday the Mavs earned a Florida split with a 108-100 win over the Magic. They did so by protecting the ball and valuing possessions in a way that allowed them to make Orlando their home-away-from-home for an eighth consecutive visit.

Many of the things the Dallas Mavericks were not able to accomplish in Miami on Friday got repaired Saturday in Orlando. Dallas earned its split of the back-to-back roadie in Florida and clearly the differing opponents had something to do with that.

But the wearers of the Magic uniforms has rarely mattered when the Mavs roll into the site of Disneyworld. This win marks the eighth straight road victory for the Mavs in Orlando. And while it got tight at the end -- the Magic had fought back from a 15-point hole to get within four before Dirk Nowitzki hit a three-pointer just before the three-minute mark to give Dallas some cushion -- a first half of textbook unselfishness set up the win for the 6-4 Mavs.

The Mavs closed business on the first half with a fat lead and a rather astounding total of just two turnovers. That's 22 fewer than they totaled in the four quarters in Miami. (Dallas finished Saturday with just eight giveaways.)

And yet they ran. They flew. They attacked. They were aggressive but as coach Rick Carlisle said, "not in a willy-nilly'' way.

The central formula: Textbook unselfishness.

1) The outlet pass went to the right guy, usually Calderon (who justified the strategy with nine assists and zero turnovers). No Hero-Ball passing. No high-risk attempts to get on the highlight reel. Just get the ball to one if the premier decision-makers in the game.

2)Center the ball on the break. A spectacular sequence in the first half featured Jose on the run but on the wing. Knifing down the middle of the floor was Monta Ellis, who crossed midcourt and then started barking, "Here! Here! Here!''

The ball was centered on the break. Monta finished. Textbook.

3) Unselfishness. We saw Dirk pass up an easy layup to instead feed DeJuan Blair. Ellis did the same thing on the break, providing Blair with the bunny.

''We played sensibly,'' Carlisle said. ''None of us are going to get too far ahead of ourselves. We've done some good things and it's really important that we just stay focused.''

Blair's 18 points matched Dirk's and he worked hard for all the rest of them on his way to a +18 in his 25 minutes. Ellis had 19 points, and he and Calderon combined for 17 assists. Vince Carter scored 12 but maybe he contributed something else as well.

This area of Florida is where Vince grew up. He's a former member of the Magic, too, and a civic treasure. Mavs assistant Darrell Armstrong is also beloved in Orlando. Maybe because of their presence -- or maybe because Orlando really is "The Happiest Place On Earth'' -- the Mavs don't seem to be made to feel like the enemy on these visits. This is old-slippers-comfortable. This is a Hallmark card. This is a welcome mat.

Mavs fans vote on "The Dirkie'' here.

The Mavs were welcome to put six guys in double-figures, welcome to shoot 51 percent from the field, welcome to bolster their second-in-the-NBA steals average of 10 with 12 more here, welcome to reflect now on a 10-game opening of the season featuring numerous injuries, four back-to-back tests, more roadies than home games ... and a solid 6-4 record.

"We're still a work in progress,'' Carlisle said. "But we're making strides. Every day is a little better.''

And for the Mavs, every day in Orlando is the happiest day on earth.

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