DALLAS -- This is why the NBA is so unpredictable.
One night after losing to the winless Minnesota Timberwolves, the Dallas Mavericks broke out of their season-long shell and thumped the undefeated Oklahoma City Thunder.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points and Shawn Marion added 17 to pace Dallas to a 100-87 victory in the Mavs' most impressive game of the season.
The win on Monday was an even more of an eye-opener considering that Oklahoma City hadn't played since Saturday, and the Mavs were playing their fourth game in five nights.
But the basketball gods finally shined a spotlight on the defending NBA champs, who wrestled the victory away from the team they bounced in last season's Western Conference Finals.
Even before tipoff, Thunder coach Scott Brooks was praising the Mavs and all but telling their fans to give them a break during what had been a stack of subpar performances.
"They still need time," Brooks said prior to Monday's game at American Airlines Center. "The league is good, there are good teams, every team is improving.
"They have a great player [Dirk Nowitzki] and they have a great coach [Rick Carlisle], and they're going to get better. They have a new group of guys, they have to understand the system and what Rick does and how their team operates, and it's going to take time."
That time came Monday as the Mavs (2-4) shot 48.8 percent from the field, committed just 12 turnovers and fought the more powerful Thunder to a 41-41 tie on the backboards.
Even Lamar Odom, who also has struggled, played his best game of the season.
Odom finished with a season-high eight points, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes.
It was Odom's three-point play that gave the Mavs an 89-75 lead with 5:36 left after the Thunder chopped away at a 16-point deficit.
Then, when Russell Westbrook stole the ball from Jason Kidd and pranced in for an uncontested fast-break dunk to bring the visitors to within 89-81, Shawn Marion and Nowitzki went to work.
Nowitzki's jumper pushed the Mavs ahead 91-81, and Marion followed with a running hook and a three-point basket. A pair of free throws by Nowitzki and an 8-foot jumper from Marion boosted the Mavs' lead to 100-87 with a minute left.
The victory helped salvage a bit of the hurt the Mavs felt Thursday in Oklahoma City when Kevin Durant's 3-pointer at the buzzer nipped the Mavs, 104-102.
Monday's game was tied 20-20 after the first period, and the Mavs led 54-47 at the half.
Solid showings from Jason Terry (15 points), Vince Carter (14 points), Ian Mahinmi (10 points, nine rebounds) and Brendan Haywood (six points, eight rebounds) helped the Mavs stave off a team many are predicting to win this year's NBA title.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760