The Dallas Mavericks played their fourth game in five nights Monday, and in three different cities and two time zones.
The law of averages figured that the Mavs would be dragging and would have a difficult time scoring points against the Atlanta Hawks.
Final score: Mavs 127, Hawks 113.
The Mavs outran, then outshot the Hawks, 57.3-56 percent, leaving coach Rick Carlisle to admit: “It was a defensive pillow fight, let’s be honest. Neither team got much traction defensively, but sometimes games are like that.
“And when they are, you’ve got to ring the bell and you’ve got to put points on the board. We’ll take the win and run.”
With just 15 games remaining, the Mavs geared up for the season’s stretch run by chasing the Hawks out of Philips Arena. The Mavs led 68-55 at the half — it’s the most points Dallas has scored in any half all season — and kept their foot on the pedal all night.
Darren Collison led the Mavs with a game-high 24 points, and had five assists in 30 minutes off the bench.
“I was able to get it going when I had some easy layups, and mid-range [jumper] started to fall,” said Collison, who scored 15 of the 34 points the Mavs had in the second quarter. “My teammates did a good job screening for me and getting me open.”
Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists, O.J. Mayo added 17 points, Chris Kaman 14 points and seven rebounds, Vince Carter 13 points, and Brandon Wright 12 points and eight rebounds.
Carlisle also was pleased with Anthony Morrow, whom the Mavs acquired in a trade with the Hawks on Feb. 21 for Dahntay Jones. Morrow finished with eight points and three assists in 13 minutes.
“Anthony Morrow, in the first half, came in and gave us solid play, [good] shot-making,” Carlisle said. “He was real good.”
The Mavericks, who made 13 of 22 3-pointers, were efficient with their offense.
Against the Hawks, it was a definite business-like approach for the Mavs, who increased their record to 32-35 going into a crucial season-high six-game homestand that starts Wednesday against Brooklyn.
Whenever the Hawks tried to rally in the second half, the Mavs would grab a couple of pillows and smother the fire. Atlanta (37-30) never got closer than 11 points at any juncture of the second half.
The Mavericks led 98-85 going into the fourth quarter.
“This has been the year of the unexpected in a lot of ways,” Carlisle said. “In this league, the players are talented and these things are possible.
“I just thought our guys came out with a terrific approach tonight. They knew this was going to be a long game against a team that’s a very good and underrated team; we gave them that kind of respect and it showed in our effort and in our energy level.”
The victory helped the Mavs rebound from Sunday’s 107-101 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We’ve been bouncing back all year,” Carlisle said. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to do that, unfortunately, but we got 15 left and we’re going to throw the kitchen sink at all 15.
“We’ve got some home games coming up that are big for us, and we’re going to have to be right and we’re going to have to be together.”