DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki is playing at an All-Star level and it shows in the standings for the Dallas Mavericks — four straight wins, matching their best streak of the season.
With a 103-81 victory over the last-place Utah Jazz on Friday night, the Mavs moved nine games over .500 at 30-21, only the second time since their 2010-11 NBA championship season to be that far above the break-even mark.
"I feel like we've improved, and that we're on a good path," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We just have to stick with it."
At the same time, Carlisle invoked what he called one of former NBA coach Chuck Daly's favorite sayings.
"Don't trust happiness, especially in the NBA," Carlisle said, quoting the late coach he worked for in New Jersey.
Monta Ellis scored 22 points to lead Dallas, but was walking unsteadily when went to the locker room after the coming out the game with 3½ minutes left. Carlisle said it appeared to be a hamstring injury, and that there was some concern with an MRI scheduled for Saturday.
Nowitzki scored 20 points while playing only 26½ minutes and taking only nine shots. He made five of his field goals, with two 3-pointers, and 8 of 9 free throws. Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert each had 12 points for the Mavs.
"We got in a good groove on offense and played some great defense," Shawn Marion said. "We were able to take them out of their offense. They never really could catch a grove or rhythm."
Except for Shawn Williams early, though he couldn't keep it up for the Jazz, who lost their fourth game in a row even while getting back at full strength.
Williams finished with 21 points, all before halftime, while matching his career high with five 3-pointers. He had 14 points as the Jazz jumped out to a 21-14 lead in the first 6 minutes.
"I think our offense got stagnant when they jumped into that zone and I wasn't able to get some of the look I was able to get when they were playing man," Williams said. "They just made more plays than we did. They might have played a little harder than we did."