First Impressions: Mavs Gain Share Of 7th

They won the first half when both teams shot poorly. They won the second half when both teams shot well. And in the end, the Mavs shot free throws when both teams disagreed with some whistles, Dirk (with 40 points) and Monta (with 26) getting to the line a combined 31 times in Dallas' 110-107 win over the Pelicans.

The Dallas Mavericks don't "deserve to be an eighth-place team'' and yet, voila! they are suddenly at 22-15 and in a virtual tie with Phoenix for seventh in the West.

Said coach Rick Carlisle: "We're on the climb. We're trying to build this thing back up to where we were.''

The Mavs don't belong in contention in any game in which they shoot 26 percent in a first half and yet, whaddaya know, they had a narrow halftime edge Saturday at the AAC in the second of their home-and-home/back-to-back doubleheader with New Orleans. ... and then caught fire.

"It was an ugly game in the first half,'' said Dirk Nowitzki. "We shot like nine percent in the first quarter. ... Then all of the sudden the basket started opening up and everybody's confidence went up.''

The Mavs don't get to the free-throw line nearly enough for it to be a weapon, and yet, believe it or not, they attempted 45 freebies here. (That's just the third time that's happened in the last six Dallas campaigns, and they Mavs have won all three.) And 16 free throws for Dirk? And 15 free throws for Monta?

And two Mavs each shooting 15 free throws as part of a 35-year-old Dirk going nuts with a 40-point explosion?

It's thrilling and wonderful and important that he can still do such a thing, as we saw in this 110-107 victory.

"What can you say about Dirk; 40 points on the fourth night in five,'' said Carlisle of the iconic Uberman, who last scored 40 at Utah on April 16, 2012 and is of course the leading candidate for Who Deserves "The Dirkie''? (You vote here!) " It's amazing. He's a great one.''

This marks the second straight night the Mavs victimize the Pelicans, having done so Friday in New Orleans by a 107-90 score. The two wins vault Dallas to 22-15, meaning the Mavs are up to seventh in the impossibly deep West.

The Mavs got all those free throws and then in the end they got the call when Monta slapped the ball away from Austin Rivers before the New Orleans guard could launch what could've been a tying 3. Rivers and the Pelicans left the gym upset; the Mavs left the gym marveling at the broad shoulders of Nowitzki, who allowed Dallas to score 42 third-quarter points -- the same number it has for the entire first half -- with 20 of his own in the period.

Dallas shot 28-of-51 (54.9 percent) from the field after the first quarter. Dirk's hotness offered logical results; Dallas is 15-4 in regular-season games when Nowitzki scores at least 40. It's the balm that soothes as Shawn Marion (shoulder) is still missing and as Shane Larkin left this one with an ankle problem.

Ellis scored 26 and Jose Calderon pitched in with 17 points and five assists. But that 20-point quarter (the fourth of Dirk's career) and that 40 (the 19th time in Dirk's career to score 40-plus) and all those free throws that mark showing aggression, getting calls and exhibiting accuracy?


"I'm not really sure (how that shooting turnaround happened),'' Carlisle said. "Both teams were four-in-five nights. Strange things happen in this league.''

A lot of strangeness. A bit of a turnaround. And -- led by the strange and amazing Dirk Nowitzki -- some encouraging ways for Dallas to make Carlisle's "climb'' reach another level.

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