DALLAS -- It took a minute, but the Dallas Mavericks finally have something cooking.
For the first time this season, the Mavs have put in enough hard work to string together a winning streak. It's only a modest two-game streak, but the Mavs will take whatever they can get.
Playing in his 1,000th career NBA game Wednesday night, Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and added seven assists to lead the Mavs to a 98-89 triumph over the Phoenix Suns at American Airlines Center.
Coupled with Monday's win over Oklahoma City, the Mavs appear to be putting the pieces together that wouldn't fit during the first week of the season.
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"Well, the chemistry is getting a little bit better on the defensive end of the floor, which is the most important," said Jason Terry, who scored 18 points. "We know offensively that we are still a ways away, but defensively we like where we're at right now.
"We just need to continue to work."
Some of that work going into the game hinged on the lessons coach Rick Carlisle and his staff gave newcomer Lamar Odom. And it finally paid off against the Suns.
In his best game by far since the Mavs (3-4) acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers last month, Odom scored a season-high 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, dragged down five boards and also picked up a pair of steals.
Carlisle, though, wasn't impressed.
"He had good stats, but there are areas where he's got to continue to improve," Carlisle said. "I'm not going to get overly excited about 15 points and something that looks like a good game statistically.
"There's a lot of other things that he's got to get better at, and he is making progress in those areas. System things, knowing coverages, being alert, communication -- a lot of the little things."
A jumper by Odom and a 3-pointer by Terry ignited a 15-3 run and pushed the Mavs out front, 92-71, with 7:46 remaining. It was the fifth 3-pointer in six second-half attempts by Terry, who said every time he plays the Suns, the game is personal.
"The loss to Minnesota [on Sunday] was our wakeup call," Terry said. "Any time you lose to that ballclub it's not a good thing -- not when you're a championship caliber team.
"We're digging ourselves out of a hole right now and this next game we already know what that means -- it's rivalry time."
Winners in three of their past four games, the Mavs play at San Antonio tonight at 7:30, and would hope some of what they accomplished against the Thunder and Suns will carry over into that I-35 showdown against the Spurs.
Meanwhile, Shawn Marion tallied 13 points and collected seven boards against his former team, and Brendan Haywood added 10 of his season-high 12 rebounds in the first half, which ended with the Mavs nursing a 49-41 lead.
"Our energy is getting progressively better," Carlisle said.
"The key thing is we've got to keep guys out there all the time that are playing full capacity."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760