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Monday, February 8, 2010
Updated: February 9, 12:54 PM ET
Was 4th quarter real deal or fool's gold?

By Tim MacMahon

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mark Cuban said Monday evening that he'd have a feel for the "suckiness quotient" of his Dallas Mavericks by the All-Star break.

It was off the charts in the first half against the Golden State Warriors.

A defense that had been awful for more than a month hit a new low. The Warriors' 70 points were the most the Mavericks had allowed in a half since January 2009.

Dobbs Today we gave up 70 points in the first half, and that's just not good enough. In the fourth quarter, we played together. We fought and got some stops finally.

-- Dirk Nowitzki

At the end of the third quarter, the Mavericks were on the verge of losing consecutive games to the two worst teams in the Western Conference. Then a funny thing happened: Dallas decided to fight, dominating the fourth quarter en route to a 127-117 win at Oracle Arena.

"That's as desperate as it gets," said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with only 15 points on a night when three teammates set season scoring highs.

Jason Terry had 36 points, Josh Howard 25 and Drew Gooden 24, but the postgame talk in the visitors' locker room wasn't about offense. It was about the dominant defense down the stretch, a rarity for Dallas these days.

While outscoring the Warriors 37-19 in the fourth quarter, the Mavs held Golden State to 33 percent shooting. That's quite a feat for a squad that has allowed its last seven foes to shoot at least 49 percent from the floor. The Mavs fueled their offense by forcing seven turnovers in the quarter.

Was the fourth quarter fool's gold against a thin Golden State team that ran out of gas or a foundation for the Mavs to build on?

Coach Rick Carlisle, whose team had lost four of the previous five games, hopes it was the latter.

"They really wanted to win this game and put a lot of effort and collective will into it," said Carlisle, who ripped the Mavs' effort after Friday night's loss to the West-worst Minnesota Timberwolves. "This was a little bit of a gut check for us tonight. We desperately need it, and we fought hard for it. We fought like it was a decisive game in a playoff series to get it."

The flip side of that is that the Mavs had to fight so hard to beat a 13-37 team. Oh, and good luck in Denver less than 24 hours after exerting this much energy.

"We've got to find a way to be better in the first half or the first three quarters," Nowitzki said. "Today we gave up 70 points in the first half, and that's just not good enough. In the fourth quarter, we played together. We fought and got some stops finally."

Maybe that was the start of something for the Mavs. Or it might just have been a temporary stop of the franchise's bleeding.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.