For more than half of the season, soft, fuzzy kittens showed more fight than the Mavericks did when it came to rebounding. Now, all of the sudden they are big, nasty tigers clawing for every loose ball on the glass. Another strong rebounding night — and they are coming against all sorts of teams at a rapid rate — set the tone for a runaway 103-81 victory against the Utah Jazz on Friday night at American Airlines Center. It was the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive victory, matching their season-best win streak, and pushed them to nine games over .500 at 30-21. The last time they were nine up on the break-even mark was when they were 21-12 midway through the lockout season of 2011-12. It’s no coincidence that the winning streak has come after the Mavericks had a team meeting after a 1-2 road trip late last month to make sure everybody knew the importance of finishing strong before the All-Star break. Friday wasn’t exactly a landmark victory in any other respect. Utah owns the worst record in the Western Conference and the Mavericks treated the visitors accordingly after a sloppy start. And the night was not without some concern. Monta Ellis, who led the Mavericks with 22 points, limped gingerly to the locker room with under three minutes left in the game — with the decision safely in the Mavericks’control. He was diagnosed with a strained right hamstring and will have an MRI exam Saturday morning. “Any time a player walks out early, there is a concern,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But we’ll get it checked out and see what’s what.” Ellis, who said he has not had any hamstring issues in the past, said he wasn’t worried. “We’ll see in the morning,” he said. “I always stay positive. We got the win. I got screws and plates in my ankle. This is nothing. Minor.” Asked when it happened, Ellis said it occurred late in the game on a fast break and he felt “leg pain.” The Mavericks will have to improvise if Ellis ends up missing any games. It probably means Devin Harris, Vince Carter and perhaps Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin will be pressed into more duty. It put a damper on a night when the Mavericks rolled after an iffy start when they weren’t playing a lick of defense. Marvin Williams had 21 of Utah’s first 37 points and zero of their last 44. What changed? Well, the Mavericks went to more zone defense, but the biggest thing was “taking me off of him,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “And then he didn’t get open.” That self-deprecating approach is what makes Nowitzki such a good teammate. It also helps that he had 20 points on just nine shots from the field. What stood out was their continued strong efforts on the glass. They won the board battle for the third consecutive game and have been plus-31 in the rebounding department over the last seven games. “We want to make sure that if we can’t get it, our man doesn’t get it, either,” said Brandan Wright. “We just want to block out and give ourselves a chance to get every loose ball.” Carlisle’s job as coach, of course, is not to get too impressed with anything.
Strong rebounding pushes Mavericks past Jazz, 103-81
Dallas Morning News | Feb 8