Mavs had to work too hard for this win

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks are good enough not to feel great about a win like this.

Mavs 103, Jazz 93 didn't need to be nearly that close.

For a half, Dallas did what a playoff contender should do against a team fighting for the first overall pick. The Mavs jumped on the Jazz pretty much from the opening tip. Utah scored the first basket but never led again as the Mavs built a lead that swelled to as many as 28 points in the second quarter.

The plan was for the Mavs' starters to rest for the fourth quarter, which was particularly important on the front end of a tough back-to-back with Dallas making the long flight to Denver after the game. The problem: The Mavs mailed it in after halftime.

"Our first half was very good," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "The second half we gave in to playing the score instead of continuing to work to do things the right way.

"They made runs. We have to give them a lot of credit. They stuck with it, played hard and made big plays. We had to make some plays at the end to win, but it's a win and we'll take it. I don't like the way we played in the second half, but we have between now and tomorrow, 8 o'clock Central Time, to straighten some things out."

The 9-4 Mavs own the fourth-best record in the Western Conference after their fourth consecutive win, so there's certainly plenty to be pleased about after sweeping a three-game homestand.

However, the Mavs' standards are too high to accept their poor execution on both ends of the court in the second half against the 1-13 Jazz, who have lost nine games by double digits already this season.

"We kind of relaxed and let them get back in the game," said forward Shawn Marion, who joined Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis as Mavs starters who played more than 30 minutes, something Carlisle wanted to avoid. "We got kind of careless out there and it showed."

The Jazz outscored the Mavs by a 59-45 margin in the second half, trimming the Dallas lead to five points with less than five minutes remaining. The Mavs shot only 41.7 percent from the field after halftime, compared to the Jazz's 59.5 percent.

The Mavs had to work harder than they wanted for the win, but at least it’s on the left-hand side of the standings.

"In this league, I guess a win is a win," Nowitzki said. "But considering that it's a back-to-back, we should have gotten more rest."

Added Ellis: "Man, we'll take it. We know what we've got to do. We've got a lot of veteran guys on the team that understand, and we know we've got to play better. With a team like this, you've got to put them away, but we didn't. We've got to learn from this."

The lesson could come when their legs tire Saturday night in Denver.