- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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How it happened: A Dallas team that had a ready-made excuse of tired legs played terrific offensive basketball.
Playing their fourth game in five nights, the Mavs set a new season high for points, scorching the Hawks for 57.3 percent shooting from the floor. Dallas hit 13 of their 22 3-point attempts (59.1 percent).
Six Mavs scored at least a dozen points, led by second-team point guard Darren Collison’s 24 on 10-of-14 shooting. In his first 20-plus-point performance in more than two months, Collison exploded for 15 points in the second quarter, a key to the Mavs building a double-digit lead that they maintained the rest of the game.
Power forward Dirk Nowitzki added 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and matched Collison with a team-high five assists. Shooting guard O.J. Mayo (17 points, 7-11 FG), center Chris Kaman (14 points, 7-11 FG), sixth man Vince Carter (13 points, 5-9 FG) and reserve center/forward Brandan Wright (12 points, 5-9 FG) also scored in double figures.
The Mavs had 33 assists on 50 field goals, evidence of how well the ball was moving.
The Hawks had eight players score in double figures and shot 56.0 percent from the floor, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Mavs.
What it means: The Mavs managed to keep their playoff hopes legitimately alive, slim as they may be, by mustering a magnificent performance in a must-win game. After splitting four games in five nights, the Mavs are 32-35, putting them 3 ½ games out of eighth place in the West standings pending the Los Angeles Lakers’ late game against the Phoenix Suns. The Mavs are 5-2 on the road this month, including a couple of wins over plus-.500 teams, something they did just once in the first four months of the season.
Play of the game: After pump-faking and drawing contact from Harris, Darren Collison showed a little savvy and got a lot of luck. He blindly fired a 16-footer that swished while he fell on his backside. The three-point play stretched the Mavs’ lead to 10 points early in the second quarter.
Stat of the night: The Mavs’ 68 points in the first half wasn’t just their most by halftime this season. It was the most in the first half by any team this season that was playing the second game of a back-to-back, according to the Mavs TV broadcast’s research.