DALLAS – It’ll take much more than five wins in six games to get Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle to crack a smile.
“I’m not happy with anything,” Carlisle grumbled after the Mavs’ 103-81 rout of the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
That caused Carlisle’s young daughter, Abby, to cackle in laughter while seated on the side of the room during the postgame press conference. But Carlisle wasn’t kidding.
The Mavs might be playing their best basketball since their 2011 championship run. At 30-21, they’re nine games over .500 for only the second time in the past three seasons.
Led by sizzling superstar Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs have been a model of offensive efficiency during their season-high-matching four-game winning streak, averaging a sky-high 122.7 points per 100 possessions. They’ve also displayed the kind of grit and toughness this team has lacked at times, beating opponents on the glass by a 26-rebound margin over the four games.
In short, the Mavs are playing as well as anyone could have possibly hoped when this roster was reconstructed last summer, and have positioned themselves to climb up the bottom half of the West’s playoff bracket.
“We’re clicking on all cylinders on both sides of the floor,” said sixth man Vince Carter, who had an outstanding all-around game with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes. “We’re just going to have to continue to work on consistency on both ends. I think we have slippage sometimes, but everybody’s on the same page. Everybody’s doing what needs to be done for the good of the team.”
For the good of the team, Carlisle made a point to warn the Mavs about the dangers of “feeling too good” about themselves. He’s certainly in no mood to give pats on the back and pump sunshine.
“Chuck Daly, one of his favorite sayings was 'Don’t trust happiness,'” Carlisle said, referring to the legendary former Detroit Pistons coach who was a mentor to him. “Especially in the NBA, because it can get you quickly if you start feeling too good about yourself. But I like the way we played.”
What wasn’t to like about the Mavs’ performance against the Jazz? Well, other than the strained right hamstring suffered late by Monta Ellis, the severity of which will be determined by an MRI on Saturday.
The Mavs’ offense kept humming, with Ellis scoring 22 points and Nowitzki adding 20 in only 26 minutes. Dallas whipped the Jazz on the glass 48-37. Utah scored only 38 points in the second half and shot a chilly 40.8 percent for the game. With Mavs big man Samuel Dalembert providing an interior presence again, Dallas dominated inside, scoring more than twice as many points in the paint as Utah.
“Offensively, we’re in a groove,” said Nowitzki, who is averaging 28.2 points on 61.1 percent shooting in the past six games. “We’re sharing the ball. Everybody’s aggressive shooting the ball. We’re not forcing offensively. I like what we’re doing offensively.
“Defensively, we said all year it’s going to be a challenge to keep it up and scramble for each other, be on the same page. [If that happens], then I like our chances.”
OK, so it was the Jazz, the worst team in the Western Conference. And it’s worth pointing out that the Memphis Grizzlies, who were missing star point guard Mike Conley, are the only team above .500 that the Mavs have beaten during their two-week hot streak.
“Right now, we still have room for improvement,” forward Shawn Marion said. “We can still get better and make each other better.”
The smiles can wait. The Mavs hope they’re just getting started.