This was supposed to be a litmus-test game for the Dallas Mavericks, a game where the Mavs would be fully tested and physically pushed to the brink by a team many expect to be among the top four in the Eastern Conference.
So much for that theory.
The Mavs continued to score points in bunches as they completely torched the Charlotte Hornets 107-80 on Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
In winning their fourth in a row, the Mavs (8-3) captured the opener of a two-game road trip that concludes Wednesday in Washington. They will return home to host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Of the Mavs’ eight wins, five have been by 14 or more points.
“We’re just playing consistent and unselfish,” said Chandler Parsons, who collected 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “We’re focusing on the defensive end.
“We know we have guys that can score, but we’re coming together as one on defense.”
On a night when Dirk Nowitzki joined Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant as the only players to score at least 27,000 points with one franchise, the attention to defense was apparent as the Mavs held the Hornets to 40-percent shooting.
Dallas also didn’t allow Charlotte to score more than 19 points in any of the final three quarters and limited the Hornets’ best player, Al Jefferson, to a mere six points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Meanwhile, the Mavs did more target shooting at the basket, finishing at 51.2 percent, and led 67-43 at the half. That lead ballooned to 33 points early in the final period (96-63) as Nowitzki (13 points, five rebounds) was able to sit out the entire fourth quarter for the third consecutive game.
“We were moving it well, they were scrambling pretty well defensively,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had some key stops early in the game where guys got in the lane.
“We built momentum early and we sustained it, which is real important. When you’re trying to be a championship-caliber team, you’ve got to be able to build leads and sustain efforts and sustain it, and we did a good job of it tonight.”
The Mavs also did a good job sharing the ball as they registered 30-plus assists — 32 against the Hornets — for the third straight contest. Dallas, which got 18 points from Monta Ellis, distributed 17 assists on its first 19 buckets and finished with only seven turnovers.
“We’re playing the right way and we’re doing things hard and collectively,” said Jameer Nelson, who had 11 points, eight assists and two steals. “We have a groove going and things are there for us offensively.”
That groove consisted of Tyson Chandler (14 points, nine rebounds) collecting four lob dunks, and Brandan Wright (10 points) adding two more.
About the only downer Monday was soreness in Devin Harris’ lower right leg that limited the 31-year-old guard to just 10 first-half minutes.
“He’s got a little ankle thing that we’re trying to take care of,” Carlisle said. “Beyond that I can’t comment because I’m not a doctor.”
Last year in this same building, the Hornets operated on the Mavs’ pretty resourcefully. That 114-89 loss was the Mavs’ worst beating of the season.
And like an elephant, they didn’t forget.
“We got drilled in here last year by  I remember, and we addressed that obviously before the game,” Nowitzki said. “So we came out ready.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go this season, but we like where we’re headed. Obviously, we’ve got to get better as the competition gets better, but this was a good road win for us.”