The American Airlines Center crowd had become restless.
The fans had watched their favorite team — the Dallas Mavericks — blow a 16-point lead and were now trailing the hapless Orlando Magic by six points late in the third period. Then, in a matter of minutes the place erupted.
One crucial play after another crucial play executed by the home team, and suddenly the Mavs were well on their way to a 111-96 victory over the Magic in their first game in a week.
The victory padded the Mavs’ record to 24-29 as they finished the homestand with a 4-1 record.
Losers in 26 of their last 29 games, the Magic had stood toe-to-toe with the Mavs and were leading 79-73 with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter. Then in a crazy sequence that defined this game, O.J. Mayo was seemingly in three or four places at the same time.
First, Mayo hustled down court and blocked a fastbreak layup attempt by J.J. Redick. As the ball rolled off the rim, Mayo snatched it and the crowd roared its approval.
Following a few dribbles, Mayo whipped a lob pass to Vince Carter, who snagged it in midair and dunked it. Carter then buried a 3-pointer, Darren Collison nailed a pair of free throws, and Carter hit another 3-pointer and the momentum had tilted in the Mavs’ favor as they took an 83-82 lead into the fourth period.
“It’s as good a hustle sequence as we’ve had all year,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought the timing of it couldn’t have been more key in this game.
“That’s a huge swing, it’s a seven-point swing within seconds, and if that doesn’t happen we all may be whistling a different tune right now. But it did, so we survive it, which is good.’’
It was also good that the Mavs were able to get eight points and five rebounds from Brandan Wright in the fourth quarter. Wright had six of those points during a terrific 17-0 run by the Mavs, who expanded a 94-90 lead withy 6:07 left to 114-90 with 1:10 remaining following a 3-pointer by Mike James.
Wright was scoreless in the first half, but when Elton Brand was fatigued in the fourth quarter, Wright stepped up and made amends.
“We felt like giving Brandan another shot was the right thing to do and he responded,’’ Carlisle said. “He used his length to maximum advantage and he hit big basket.’’
Playing their first game since the All-Star break, the Mavs were also very impressive early on as they jumped out of the gate and led 42-30 after the first quarter. It was the most points the Mavs have scored in any quarter this season.
The Mavs also played unselfish basketball again as they distributed a whopping 32 assists and now has dispensed at least 20 assists in 20 consecutive games.
“We’re a selfless team,’’ said Brand, who contributed 17 points, five rebounds and two blocks. “Whoever is out there, if they see a guy is open they want to get him the ball, and that’s how we got 32 assists tonight.’’
Besides Brand, the Mavs got 17 points and eight boards from Shawn Marion, 14 points and eight assists form Carter, 13 points from Mayo, and 12 points apiece from Dirk Nowitzki and Collison.
“The positives were the assists numbers were great, our start to the game was better,’’ Carlisle said. “Now we’ve got to bring it to the whole game and be able to sustain it.
“That’s a challenge we’re going to keep embracing.’’