Sometimes, the NBA schedule serves up the equivalent of an NFL bye week. Except in the NBA, you also get credit for a win.

The Mavericks got their freebie Monday night, although it should be noted that this team has shown it’s not always capable of taking the gimme when offered.

This time, it did, blasting the Orlando Magic, 107-88, behind a diverse attack that wasn’t always great but didn’t need to be.

Orlando was on the last leg of a five-game, nine-day trip on which it lost at every stop. The Magic showed up at American Airlines Center looking very much like a shorthanded team that owns the NBA’s second-worst record and has lost eight in a row overall.

To their credit, the Mavericks treated this bunch accordingly.
With Monta Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki and Wayne Ellington doing much of the damage, the Mavericks rolled up a 22-point lead in the second quarter, then essentially traded punches the rest of the way en route to a routine spanking of the downtrodden Magic.

“We need wins,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “This is a team that’s depleted because of injuries. But they’re not just going to give you the game, so you got to play.”

The Mavericks improved to 23-16, pushing them seven games over .500 for the first time this season and for the first time since they were 36-29 late in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. They didn’t win their 23rd game last season until Feb. 13, so they’re a month ahead of that pace, not that that’s saying much.

“It’s better than seven games under, which last year definitely happened,” said Nowitzki, who had 15 points. “That’s why we had those bad beards last year. We were so far behind .500 and had to fight to get back to it. This is the highest we’ve been all year, so we’d love to keep going up … and maybe even move up [in the standings]. Why not?”

Added Jae Crowder, who had 14 points and three steals: “We needed this win especially with a tough road trip coming up. Hopefully, we can keep building in the right direction.”

The Mavericks visit the Clippers and Suns later this week.