DALLAS -- As pretty as the Mavs’ 13-4 record is, there have been a couple of key pieces missing from the puzzle.
There’s nothing new to report on dynamic young guard Rodrigue Beaubois’ recovery from a broken foot. He’ll hopefully be ready to make his season debut at some point in December.
But Caron Butler’s game appears to have healed.
The nine-year veteran’s statistics are the worst they’ve been since 2003-04. He’s averaging 14 points on .419 shooting, and those numbers have increased significantly in the last few days.
Butler caught fire during the Mavs’ win over the Miami Heat on Saturday night, scoring a season-high 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. He built on his best performance of the season by pumping in 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting in Monday’s win over the Houston Rockets.
He suddenly looks like the two-time All-Star the Mavs traded for last winter.
“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do,” said Butler, whose slump was exacerbated by back spasms that caused him to miss three games in early November. “I stayed the course, and I’m getting rewarded.”
Dallas, which has the league’s longest winning streak after its sixth straight victory, can be an especially dangerous team if Butler is consistently efficient and productive.
The Mavs’ offense tends to get too stagnant at times. "Dump it to Dirk Nowitzki and watch" works on occasion, but the Mavs’ superstar needs a scoring sidekick in the starting lineup.
Maybe Beaubois can be that guy, but there’s no telling how long it’ll take him to get in a groove once he finally gets on the court. Butler believes he’s ready to fill that role right now and for the rest of the season.
“I’m going to continue to step up,” Butler said. “As long as I’m healthy and out there on the court, I’m going to produce.”
Of course, confidence has never been an issue for Butler. That’s one of his best attributes, according to Rick Carlisle.
“He’s aggressive,” Carlisle said. “He forgets about misses. All he thinks about is the next shot going in. That’s a very healthy attitude to have as a basketball player.”
Butler hasn’t had many misses to worry about in the third quarters of the Mavs’ last couple of games. He came out of the locker room after halftime scorching against the Heat and Rockets.
Butler’s 12-point outburst on 4-of-7 shooting in the third quarter against Miami was his highest-scoring quarter of the season. Then he one-upped that by dropping 13 in the third against Houston, making all but one of his seven shots from the floor, the exception being a contested 3 that was an understandable heat check.
It’s not a coincidence that the Mavs blew both games open in the third quarters.
“Offense comes easier obviously because we don’t have to force shots when he’s rolling,” Nowitzki said. “We just whip the ball around the way we want to.”
Butler believes it's the beginning of a trend.
The tough times have passed. Now it’s a matter of keeping the good times going.