3-pointer: O.J. Mayo has 'best game of the year'

DALLAS – When O.J. Mayo glanced at the box score after Wednesday night’s win, the career-high 12 assists in his line looked good. The zero turnovers looked even better.

“Just trying to be a playmaker, you know?” Mayo said with a grin.

Maybe that was a little jab at coach Rick Carlisle, who publicly declared that Mayo was “not a creator” after a five-turnover outing in last week’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Carlisle’s point was that creativity isn’t Mayo’s strength, a message that certainly got through.

Of Mayo’s dozen dimes, you might not see any on the highlight shows. Mayo just consistently made smart, basic passes that led to buckets.

“I just wanted to get in there and try to make the simple play,” Mayo said.

That’s evidence that Mayo is listening to Carlisle, who constantly preaches the value of simplicity.

Mayo, first and foremost, is a scorer. However, he didn’t feel comfortable shooting the ball Wednesday night while playing with a plastic splint on his shooting hand to protect a sprained thumb suffered in Sunday’s lopsided loss to the Rockets. He carefully picked his spots, scoring 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

“His best game of the year. Not even close. Not even close,” Carlisle said of Mayo, who also had six rebounds and two steals. “He played great defensively, awareness was tremendous, and then offensively he made the right play virtually every time.”

He’s had much more prolific scoring nights, including a career-high 40-point performance in a December win over the Rockets, but it’s a sign of progress that Mayo played such a critical role in a win while putting up fewer points than normal.

“The thing is he didn’t put himself in positions where he had to try to manufacture things in a crowd tonight,” Carlisle said. “He just really was patient, read situations where he had to go get the ball and catch and make a play. He’s shown a lot of growth this year, and tonight was a big night for that.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ rebound win over the Rockets:

1. Wright call: Carlisle made a couple of changes to his starting lineup, plugging in Mike James at point guard and Brandan Wright at center. The decision to start Wright, in particular, paid off.

Wright, whose minutes have been sporadic this season, scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 27 minutes and provided a valuable defensive presence with his athleticism and ability to protect the rim. Carlisle went with Wright to because the slender center’s quickness made him a good matchup with the Rockets.

But Wright has been around Dallas long enough to know that his strong performance doesn’t necessarily guarantee him minutes on the Mavs’ upcoming road trip.

“I just think he’s going to play the guy he thinks are going to win the game that night,” Wright said. “You never know. You’ve just got to be ready.”

Carlisle opted not to play Chris Kaman, the starter for the previous three games.

2. Dirk bounces back: Nowitzki regained his rhythm after his eight-point, 2-of-8 shooting outing in Sunday’s stinker.

Nowitzki matched Shawn Marion with a team-high 22 points, going 9-of-16 from the floor. He had nine of his points in the fourth quarter.

Nowitzki has scored at least 20 points in five of the last seven games. He had only four 20-plus-point performances before the All-Star break.

3. Mavs 3, Rockets 1: The Rockets outscored the Mavs by 17 points this season, but the Mavs won the season series by a 3-1 margin.

That math works for Nowitzki.

“If we’d be 3-1 against some other teams,” Dirk deadpanned, “we’d be in great shape.”