DALLAS -- It's not a big deal to beat L.A. these days, at least not the proud franchise that wears purple and gold.
These Los Angeles Lakers, minus Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and a few other rotation players, are a bad team. There's really no reason to celebrate a January win over a squad that has lost eight of its past nine games.
But the Mavericks' 110-97 win Tuesday night was a heck of a lot better than the alternative.
"We needed to stop the bleeding somehow," said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 27 points. "I don't think it was pretty, but we got the job done somehow."
It didn't matter if the win came over the Washington Generals. Dallas desperately needed a victory over somebody -- anybody -- as it wrapped up a dreadful three-game homestand and started a stretch of four games in five nights.
It would have been an unmitigated disaster if the Mavs boarded their private plane to head to San Antonio with the baggage of a five-game home losing streak. The four-game skid at the American Airlines Center matched the Mavs' longest since the first few days of Mark Cuban's ownership tenure, but at least they didn't leave town with the bitter taste of being swept in the homestand.
"Going on the road trip into San Antonio, I think we kind of needed a confidence booster," said sixth man Vince Carter, who broke out of a personal funk with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting. "It was important, a must-win."
Poor Pau Gasol is pretty much surrounded by D-League talent -- Wesley Johnson, Robert Sacre, Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall joined him in the Lakers' starting lineup -- but there were some things to like about the 20-15 Mavs' performance.
Carter looked like the guy who seemed to be heating up in late November. Monta Ellis had a dominant spurt, scoring on five straight possessions in the fourth quarter after misfiring on nine of his first 11 shots from the field. Jose Calderon (12 points, 8 assists, 5 steals) had arguably his best all-around game of the season. The Mavs shot 53.3 percent from the field.
"The important thing is to find a way," coach Rick Carlisle said. "And we did."
But the win came with a big bummer. Forward Shawn Marion left the American Airlines Center with a sling on his right arm and won't travel to San Antonio because of a shoulder contusion sustained when he crashed to the court late in the second quarter.
The Mavs' other regular starters -- Nowitzki, Ellis and Calderon -- all played heavy minutes. The 32-year-old Calderon's 36 minutes, well above his norm, is especially concerning entering a 6 p.m. matchup against All-Star point guard Tony Parker, particularly without Marion to take his turns trying to slow down the Spurs' engine.
"Kind of kept them hanging around," Nowitzki said. "Considering we have four games in five nights, we should have got a lot more rest in the fourth and we failed to do so. That'll hurt us later."
The Mavs at least got some temporary pain relief with their win over the leftover Lakers.