"Everybody's talking about Tyson's gone, but the way they played tonight, we'll forget about Tyson real soon."
DALLAS -- Friday night proved to be another step in that direction with Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi again bringing strong performances in Dallas' first win of the season, a 99-86 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Haywood finished with just four points but had a team-high nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end, in 19 minutes. Mahinmi,who is fighting to earn backup minutes for the first time in his four-year career, poured in a career-high 19 points on 6-of-6 shooting, got to the free throw line 11 times and added five rebounds, a steal and couple of blocks.
In Thursday's buzzer-beater loss at OKC, the pair combined for 17 points and seven rebounds.
"I know this was a career high in points for him, but the last two nights he’s given us a really high level of energy," coach Rick Carlisle said. "He’s given us a physical presence, he’s a combative guy and he was really big tonight. It wasn’t just the points; it was defensively, he’s in the right place, he’s aggressive, he’s talking. He’s making great strides."
Mahinmi was instrumental in key stretches Friday night. He provided energy and six points during a stretch of the second quarter when Dallas opened a 12-point cushion, and more importantly in the third quarter after a 14-0 Raptors run put the Mavs in a sudden 68-61 hole, Mahinmi came off the bench, along with Vince Carter, and sparked a 13-0 run. Mahinmi made 5-of-6 free throws and had a block and steal in the final 4:51 of the third to help give Dallas the lead back at 77-70.
"For the team to be successful we've got to give this effort every night, so this is our goal," Mahinmi said. "When we are out there we have to go after everything. We have to do the dirty work."
The Mavs are attacking the center position by committee behind the veteran Haywood, who will continue to start but has averaged right about 19 minutes a game. Dallas brought in Brandan Wright and more recently Sean Williams to compete with Mahinmi. Wright has been inactive the last three games and Williams has shown flashes in limited playing time. Even now, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports the Mavs could be closing in on signing free agent center Kyrylo Fesenko.
"I’m just willing to do anything to help the team," Mahinmi said. "I’m the backup guy right now, so I’m just going to keep working on my craft."
That competition has helped Mahinmi re-focus in on staking a claim to the lion's share of the backup minutes. He earned a career-high 29 minutes Thursday and logged 50 in the last two nights.
"We've seen him do that in stretches," guard Jason Terry said of Mahinmi. "The question for him is can he do it on a consistent basis?"
That question will be answered as the season progresses, but Mahinmi, in his second season with Dallas after two years as a third-string center with the San Antonio Spurs, says he's ready for the challenge.
"It puts a lot of pressure on us, but it's good. I think it's good pressure," Mahinmi said. "Me and Brendan and Sean, we want that type of pressure, we want more minutes, so now we have the opportunity, so now we just have to go out there and take it."
If they do, perhaps they will forget about Chandler soon enough.