The first is defense. For the 12th time in 13 games, the Mavs limited an opponent to fewer than 100 points, and for the second consecutive game they limited their opponent to less than 40 percent shooting from the floor as they extended their win streak to seven games.
"The whole thing has been building on defense," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Tyson [Chandler] has been amazing lately, we all can see that, the numbers he's putting up, the energy he's giving us. And then [Brendan] Haywood's been great the last couple of games. With those big boys playing like that in the middle, we're pretty good defensively and that's the key to the whole winning streak."
The second point of success is how Dallas dismantled the Houston Rocketsand Timberwolves on their home floor.
The Mavs have been guilty of some pretty lackluster home performances against some pretty mediocre teams. They had already frittered away a game against the Memphis Grizzlies and played it too close for comfort against the Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons.
"It's progress and we've got to continue it," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of the team's consecutive no-doubt, double-digit victories to extend their winning streak to seven games. "I like this group a lot. We've been very businesslike with our approach. Guys have taken nothing for granted. And they know how important it is to put opponents away when they have the opportunity. We've made some progress there and, again, the mission is to sustain."
Still, Carlisle said there's no back-patting going on. The Mavs got off to a 17-6 start last season, they were playing strong defense and then it all unraveled. Granted, as much as this team, personnel-wise is the same as last year, the addition of the highly charged, 7-foot-1 Chandler, as well as Shawn Marion's revitalized play at both ends, has made noticeable differences.
"We were at about this point last year and we had made significant gains defensively, too, and we had slippage. We had a pretty significant slip somewhere in December," Carlisle said. "We're working to avoid that and we want to continue to make progress. We know that defense and unity are our biggest assets and we're going to continue to talk about that stuff, work at it and right now for us it's everything."