Team basketball catapulted the Dallas Mavericks to a championship. After that team was half-dismantled, the big question was whether they could recapture the unselfishness and ego-less play.
During this stretch of six wins in eight games and three in a row after taking a road back-to-back at Detroit and Boston, coach Rick Carlisle believes the team game is surfacing.
"We needed everybody," Carlisle said of Wednesday's 90-85 win against the Celtics. "There were timely plays made the entire second half and guys like Rodrigue Beaubois coming in and getting a steal here and there and making a couple of shots. Ian Mahini gave us good energy. I loved Lamar Odom in the second half. He played with great energy.
"A game like this, it comes down to a lot of little things. The sum total of our game is a lot of good solid plays being sandwiched together. The guys did a good job of that the second half."
The Mavs won a season-best three in a row without injured point guard Jason Kidd. Delonte West has filled in, moving from starting shooting guard to the point, with a feisty, aggressive approach and he got things going in Boston scoring the team's first six points as Dallas bolted to an early 10-2 lead.
"He’s active, he’s not scared, he competes on every play; he’s tough in the post, he’s got great hands, great anticipation and he just plays hard," Dirk Nowitzki gushed. "He really sets a great tone for the whole team because he competes on every play."
Carlisle also said, "I also want to give a lot of credit to the guys on our bench."
That's a bench that lost Vince Carter to the starting lineup with Kidd sidelined and still produced 76 points, 31 rebounds, 18 assists and just 11 turnovers (only four against the Celtics) in the two-game road sweep.
Carlisle's mantra of "Be ready," a phrase he has used since his arrival remains particularly relevant during this compacted regular season. He has used all 13 players available such as in the blowout win against Detroit on Tuesday and still used 10 players in Wednesday's tight contest against the Celtics.
The nature of the schedule is forcing Carlisle to use his depth, but it's up to the depth to produce and enable Carlisle to trust them. That is taking place and just one reason why Dallas is 6-2 after the 0-3 start.
"The team’s finding itself a little bit," Carlisle said. "This is a very challenging year on a lot of levels. But the guys are taking the challenge. Getting momentum is tough, keeping it is tougher. But right now, we’ve got some, and we’re going to keep it."