The Mavs know it.
"He's the key to our success, you know that," guard Jason Terry said. "He's been that way all season long. When he's playing at a high level, when his energy is up, it's hard to beat us."
Chandler knows it, too, and he relishes it.
"That's why I take it so personally," Chandler said. "Talking about this last streak of games, I take it personal when my team's not playing well defensively, when we lose games. When we lose games and we're not playing well defensively, I lose sleep."
Chandler finally got a good night's rest after scoring seven points and snagging 17 rebounds, some with a snarl and others with pointed elbows, in the Mavs' 101-73 rout of the Golden State Warriors. He picked up just two fouls in 28 minutes. But, there's a big difference between dominating the 30-win, small-ball Warriors who were without center Andris Biedrins and started 6-10 rookie Ekpe Udoh out of Baylor, and doing it against the big boys.
The streak of games Chandler referenced are three losses in a week to the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. Chandler, the Mavs' defensive heart-and-soul and top rebounder all season, had poor outings while his counterparts dominated.
Andrew Bynum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan combined to average 24.7 points on 30-of-50 shooting (60 percent) and 10.3 rebounds. Chandler averaged 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, well below his season averages of 10.2 and 9.4, respectively, and five fouls. The points -- Bynum and Duncan each scored 22 and Aldridge had 30 -- are not the focal point; shooting percentage, rebounding and fouls are critical.
"That's what this team needs from me," Chandler said. "The last three or four games I felt like I really wasn't myself out there. I think I got so caught up in the way things were going as a whole that I started letting it affect me personally and I can't let that happen. I got to continue to bring what I bring to the team and let the cards fall where they're going to fall."
Foul trouble was the culprit in the three games. Chandler amassed 19, points, 16 rebounds and 15 fouls. He fouled out against San Antonio for only the fourth time this season and he had five against Portland and four against L.A. He managed to stay on the floor for more than 30 minutes despite foul trouble against the Lakers and Blazers, but quick fouls against San Antonio limited him to just 22 minutes.
"When you have nights like that you're not supposed to let it carry over," Chandler said. "It's easy to say, but I'm an emotional guy and I take things personal. When we have nights like that I'm up until four or five in the morning just staring at the ceiling."
After Chandler threw down an alley-oop to trim the Spurs' one-time, 40-22 lead to 52-51 at the 10:30 mark of the third quarter, he fouled Tim Duncan 21 seconds later for his fourth foul. Chandler took a seat until the start of the fourth quarter with the Spurs leading, 73-66.
Chandler lasted 34 seconds before inexplicably picking up his fifth foul attacking Tony Parker on the perimeter. He was back on the bench and when the one player capable of transforming the Mavs from a good defensive team on most nights to a suffocating one, it puts Dallas at a distinct disadvantage.
"I am concerned on the one hand. On the other he's an aggressive player and you can't take away his aggressive nature," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We show him film and the thing he's got to just read in a lot of those situations is just how aggressive to be. He's got great length and very good quickness for a 7-footer, so we want him to use that as much as possible and avoid the fouls because he's such an important player to us."
In two games against the Lakers, Chandler has averaged just 5.0 points and 8.0 rebounds. He gets another crack at the two-time champs in Los Angeles on March 31. In four games against the Spurs, Chandler's numbers are 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. He's fared best against Portland, a potential first-round playoff opponent, with 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in three games and one to play back in Portland on April 3.
In eight games against those four teams, Chandler has 28 foul, but in the past five meetings -- three coming against the Spurs -- he's been whistled 25 times.
"Foul trouble is going to take a guy out of a game so it's important to avoid that situation when he can," Carlisle said. "We need him to be aggressive, but have discretion and we need him on the floor."