Mavericks move to 4-1 despite key injuries

DALLAS -- Rick Carlisle has a shiny diamond ring he won when he led the Dallas Mavericks to the 2011 NBA championship.

But the Mavs coach accomplished something Wednesday he's never accomplished since he became the team's coach in 2008.

With a 109-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors, Carlisle got the Mavs off to a 4-1 start for the first time in his five seasons in Dallas. The win enabled the Mavs to sweep a three-game homestand before they start a two-game road trip Friday in New York against the unbeaten Knicks.

Playing the Raptors without Dirk Nowitzki (knee), Shawn Marion (knee), Rodrigue Beaubois (ankle) and Elton Brand left the Mavs with only 11 healthy bodies in uniform. But they were able to fight and scratch and reach the 4-1 mark for the first time since 2007-08.

"We were playing a team tonight that was playing their fourth [game] in five nights, and that's the kind of advantage you've got to get," Carlisle said. "We were fresh and they weren't, and we did what we were supposed to do there."

The Mavs led by as many as 16 points in the first half before seeing the Raptors whittle the lead to 107-102 with a minute left after a three-point play by Amir Johnson.

After a timeout, the Mavs worked the ball until it got to center Chris Kaman, who promptly popped in a jump hook on the right side to give Dallas a 109-102 lead with 41.4 seconds left.

"It was a little up and down with shot-making tonight,'' said Kaman, who had 22 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes. "It wasn't as consistent as it has been the last couple of home games, but the most important thing is digging out the win in the end."

And the Mavs dug out the win without their top two rebounders in Marion and Brand. Brand was in New York by his wife's side as she gave birth to a girl Wednesday night.

Although the Mavs won the rebounding battle 47-38 -- it was 31-13 Dallas at the half -- Carlisle knows where Brand would have helped.

"The thing we missed tonight is Elton's physical presence," Carlisle said. "Without him we're not a very physical team. ... Hopefully we'll get him back for Friday."

The Mavs got 22 points and six assists from O.J. Mayo, 17 points from Vince Carter, 15 from Darren Collison and 12 points and seven boards from Brandan Wright. Rookie center Bernard James provided six points and nine rebounds.

"Bernard James came in today and gave us a big lift at the [power forward] and [center] spot," Kaman said. "We've got guys picking up where guys are injured, so it's been a full team effort.

"We're on a little bit of a roll and we're just going to try to keep it going."

The Mavs led 36-24 after the first period behind Kaman's eight points and Mayo's seven. Dallas led 42-26 in the second period and 61-50 at the half, only to see the Raptors hang around to make it interesting.

Carlisle was appreciative of what his team has accomplished thus far.

"I think it points to the fact that at this point we've taken advantage of a favorable schedule," Carlisle said. "But all these wins are very good wins -- these are all quality teams."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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