Full effort returns and so does win column

DALLAS -- Sasha Pavlovic joined the Dallas Mavericks at one of the most awkward points of the Mark Cuban era, with team hit hard by injuries and the mounting losses at a level not seen in a decade.

After returning from a miserable four-game losing skid on the road that ended Monday and pushed the total losses to six in a row and nine in 11 games, Pavlovic said he saw characteristics emerge that must have led this team to that all-but-forgotten 24-5 start.

"Actually, I was surprised. They were losing and then we lost four games on the road and everybody was so positive in the locker room. They stick together and that's the key to get out of a struggle," said Pavlovic, who earned a second 10-day contract after scoring 11 points in his first start in Wednesday's skid-busting win over the Los Angeles Lakers. "This game like [last night's] against the Lakers is the perfect game to get out of a stretch like that. As long as we stay positive and play together we can beat anybody."

So add the Lakers to a tally board that includes the Boston Celtics, the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. The Mavs are tied with the Spurs with an NBA-best 15 wins over teams with a winning record. Wednesday's 109-100 victory, in which Dallas scored 20 more points than it averaged in the previous 11 games, was the most important for obvious reasons.

"For a six-game losing streak I think everybody stayed positive," Dirk Nowitzki said. "I don’t think the attitude was down yesterday [at practice]. We had fun with each other still, so that was a good sign that nobody had their heads down. We understand that we have a veteran team and it’s only January. I think even the Lakers early lost five (four) games in a row. It was a tough little stretch, but hopefully this emotional win can get us back on track."

Yet, with all those big wins, it seems unfathomable, even with the injuries, that the Mavs' effort could sink as low as it did during a nearly three-week losing stretch that included lopsided loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies.

Where was Wednesday night's effort in those debacles? Even coach Rick Carlisle admitted to scratching his head.

"I think the guys would agree with that, and so you know we did it once, let’s do it twice in a row," Carlisle said. "And then let’s do it again because doing it from time to time isn’t going to solve things and our guys know that."

Their chance comes quickly, in a matter of hours at Chicago.