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3-pointers: Backup centers step up big

DALLAS – Replacing Brendan Haywood wasn’t a big problem for the Mavs on Saturday night.

The Mavs’ centers produced 15 points and 17 rebounds in the 106-99 win over the Spurs, the first of at least five games that Haywood will miss due to a sprained right knee.

Ian Mahinmi had seven points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes as the starter. Brandan Wright produced eight points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. They were two of the primary reasons the Mavs had a 48-35 rebounding edge over San Antonio, which had only four second-chance points a night after posting 24 in that category in a win over the Thunder on Friday.

“You’ve got to have everybody step up big, and those guys did,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had foul trouble, which we knew was going to be a possibility, and they ham-and-egged it pretty good at the center position. They both have different body types. They give us a little different kind of activity, but they were both aggressive all night and were active around the boards.”

They also kept future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan from dominating the game. Duncan scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting, being defended primarily by Mahinmi, whose rookie responsibilities in San Antonio a few years ago included bringing Duncan donuts.

“Ian is going to bring energy,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He battled Timmy D. in there. That’s a tough situation to be in obviously with Timmy and no double team and he gets five or six dribbles, but I think Ian did a great job battling. … And we know what Brandan brings [as] a high-energy player.”

A few more notes from Saturday night’s big win:

1. Dirk does it again: Ho-hum, another 27-point performance for Nowitzki. That was his points total in each of the games during the Mavs’ 3-0 homestand.

A dozen of Dirk’s 27 points against the Spurs came in the second quarter. In fact, he scored 12 consecutive points for the Mavs against a small-ball Spurs lineup at one point, which made coach Rick Carlisle worry about wearing out his superstar.

“I wanted the ball there,” said Nowitzki, who shot .636 from the floor and .467 from 3-point range. “I felt like we’ve got to make them pay if they’re playing a small lineup. They were basically playing four guards and I was calling for it a lot. Maybe it was a little too much, but hey, I’d rather be overaggressive than not aggressive at all.”

2. Kidd feels fresh: After sitting out the three-in-three finale, this week couldn’t have gone much better for Jason Kidd as far as easing the toll on his 38-year-old body. A light week of the lockout-compressed schedule was even lighter for Kidd because he rested the entire fourth quarters of the wins over the Wizards and Bobcats.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Kidd put up his best stat line of the season against the Spurs. He had his first double-double of the year with 14 points and 10 assists, each one shy of his season high. He matched his season high by making four 3-pointers, only missing once behind the arc.

“I feel great,” Kidd said. “We’re getting closer to what we’re playing for and that’s a playoff position, so just trying to get a rhythm and help my teammates out.”

3. Energy from jump: The Mavs have talked a lot about playing hard for all 48 minutes but haven’t done it much since the All-Star break. They put their effort where their mouths were against the Spurs, hitting first and never trailing.

“We’ve had lags in other games,” Carlisle said. “Tonight, there couldn’t be a lag and there wasn’t.”

Added Jason Terry: "Anytime a playoff opponent comes in, that's not our problem. We've always been able to raise our level. That's the bar we've set for ourselves and for the rest of the season we have to be able to build on a game like tonight.''