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Rapid reaction: Mavs 93, Jazz 81

How it happened: The combination of a hot Dirk Nowitzki and harassing defense is hard to beat.

Nowitzki continued to light it up like a legitimate MVP candidate. He led the Mavs with 26 points on 12-of-18 shooting.

But defense is the primary reason the Mavs are 15-4, which is a game behind the Spurs for the NBA's best record. The Jazz never found a rhythm in the second half, when they scored only 38 points. Utah shot only 39.2 percent for the game.

Backup big man Brendan Haywood, who played 29 minutes with Tyson Chandler getting in foul trouble, made a major impact. Haywood's stats (four points, six rebounds, two blocks) won't wow anybody, but he was a disruptive defensive presence in the paint, as evidenced by the Mavs outscoring the Jazz by 13 with him on the floor.

The Mavs seized control of the game in the third quarter, when Jason Kidd and Nowitzki had eight points apiece, with Kidd adding three assists. Dallas slammed the door by starting the fourth quarter with a Dirk-fueled 11-0 run, allowing Kidd to rest the entire fourth quarter.

What it means: There isn't a better team in the NBA than the Mavs right now. Dallas extended its winning streak to eight games and snapped the Jazz's at seven. The Jazz were the most recent high-quality foe to fall to the Mavs, a list that also includes the Thunder, Spurs and Heat within the last week.

Play of the game: Nowitzki hit a high-arcing, one-legged leanaway off the glass to give the Mavs a double-digit lead with a little more than 10 minutes remaining. He knocked down the 13-foot bank shot despite being bumped and challenged by Andrei Kirilenko, an excellent defender. "Aw, c'mon!" ESPN's Hubie Brown hollered in awe as the ball hit the net.

Stat of the night: The Mavs, who led the NBA with a 29-13 road record last season, have won seven of eight games away from the AAC this season.