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Friday, December 30, 2011
Mavs get back to business with a win

By Tim MacMahon



DALLAS -- The scene in the Mavericks’ locker room wasn’t quite as festive as it was after their last win.

No champagne bottles. No commemorative hats and T-shirts. No tears of joy. Not even many smiles.

“No celebration at all,” said Jason Terry, who puffed on victory cigars for days after the Mavs closed out the Heat in the NBA Finals.

Nope, just back to business as usual for a franchise that has won at least 50 games in its last 11 seasons.

It took long enough. Dallas, the first defending champion to stumble to an 0-3 start since the 1969-70 Boston Celtics, finally got in the win column with a 99-86 victory Friday night over the Toronto Raptors.

The Mavs thought this moment would come 24 hours earlier in Oklahoma City after Vince Carter hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining. But Kevin Durant’s buzzer-beating 28-footer extended the Mavs’ season-opening losing streak.

There wasn’t any late-game drama with Toronto in town. The Mavs seized control of the game for good with a 16-2 run to end the third quarter, keyed by Carter’s eight-point scoring spree.

A 1-3 record still isn’t pretty. But it is progress for the Mavs.

“We knew it would happen,” Terry said. “It was just a matter of time. Thought it would happen last night. Unfortunately, we had to take a bump along the way, but the way that we played last night gave us some confidence. Now that we know how we have to play, we’re a confident team.”

The way the Mavs have to play starts on the defensive end, just like it did during their title run. The Mavs forced 17 turnovers while holding their opponent under triple digits for the first time this season.

“The communication was up tonight,” said Shawn Marion, who had 12 points. “You can feel it, and the sense of urgency was there, as well. As long as we keep that we’ll be OK.”

The Mavs also got plenty of scoring punch from the bench, another trademark of last season’s title team, even with Lamar Odom’s struggles continuing.

It was a pedestrian performance for superstar Dirk Nowitzki (18 points on 7-of-16 shooting), but Ian Mahinmi more than made up for it. Mahinmi had a career-high 19 points off the pine, hitting all six shots from the floor. Terry added 17 points and Carter contributed 10.

“Everybody had a hand in this one,” big man Brendan Haywood said.

Added coach Rick Carlisle: “Right now, it’s about continuing to trend the right way, especially on the defensive end.”