And suddenly the Dallas Mavericks are operating like a precision, team-oriented offensive machine for the first time since the group that took the floor in Miami last June.
Count 'em: 33 assists on 45 baskets; 18 on their first 19 baskets. Seven players registered an assist, three had at least six. Jason Kidd had 10 for a second consecutive game, Rodrigue Beaubois notched six and Dirk Nowitzki had six by halftime to flirt with a triple-double (he'd end up with a double-double of 33 points and 11 rebounds to go with the six dimes).
"It was one of the smartest played games I’ve seen in the league all year long," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our guys were very disciplined, aggressive but not frantic, moved the ball the way we had to; had a lot of guys play extremely well. I thought [Lamar] Odom played a terrific game. We had a lot of really good things happen. There was a strong presence on the defensive boards. Dirk was obviously great.”
It was the fourth consecutive game Dallas scored 100-plus points in the 112-95 victory. The point total was the second highest of the season and topped this recent surge of 107 points on Tuesday, 101 on Thursday and 106 on Saturday. To no surprise, the Mavs won all four and are 14-1 when they score 100 or more.
Six players reached double figures Monday, including Brandan Wright with 15 in 27 minutes, Beaubois with 14 in 36 minutes, Ian Mahinmi with 11 in 18 minutes and Vince Carter with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes.
"At halftime we talked about how we had 26 field goals on 23 assists," Nowitzki said. "It was really fun out there."
Oh, did we fail to mention Dirk's 33 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes?
"He made some tough shots," Denver guard Aaron Afflalo said of Nowitzki. "I think the biggest issue was allowing him to get those trail 3-pointers. Those were the ones that kind of broke our backs a little bit."
Like the one early in the third quarter that extended Dallas' seven-point lead at halftime to 68-56. From there the rout was on. Nowitzki hit three more 3-pointers on just four attempts, giving him 10 on 19 attempts during this four-game win streak.
All-in-all, the Mavs shot 53.6 percent, their fourth in a row of shooting better than 45 percent and second time in the four of posting better than 50 percent.
"Sharing the ball and making plays. It’s not about who scores," Carter said. "It’s about making the right play and everybody has really bought into that."
Three more areas to consider as the Mavs get ready for the Lakers back at home Wednesday night:
1. Vince Carter surges: Every time it seems this season has sapped just about all the energy out of 35-year-old Carter, he kicks this season in the you-know-where. Making his second start at small forward with Shawn Marion shelved, Carter came through with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots in 33 minutes. He logged more time than only Beaubois.
2. Rest does a body good: Speaking of older guards, Kidd, who turns 39 on Friday, appears refreshed since taking last Saturday's game off, the final game of that back-to-back-to-back that ended the brutal stretch of nine games in 12 nights. OK, so Kidd was only so-so against Washington and Charlotte, but he didn't log many minutes and the Mavs as a whole were still coming out of their stupor. Take the last two impressive wins over San Antonio and Denver for evidence. Kidd has 20 assists to just one turnover. He scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting overall and 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.
“He was orchestrating all night long; he had the game under control," Carlisle said of Kidd against the Nuggets. "We knew that we were going to have to be aggressive but extremely smart against these guys because if you get into the frantic, windshield-wiper game, they’ll put up a 120 [points] in a blink."
3. Active Lamar Odom: Carlisle has praised the forward's play of late even though his shot isn't finding the bottom of the net. Of course, the name of the game in basketball is to score, but there are other jobs that must get done. Against the Nuggets, Odom grabbed nine rebounds and dished out five assists in 26 minutes, his high-minute game since playing 27 on Feb. 17 at Philadelphia. He was just 3-of-7 shooting, but he got in his hacks with five fouls, and he also had four turnovers. Odom was plus-4, the lowest rating of the Mavs' top eight players, but at least he finished with a positive rating.