DALLAS (AP)—Sure, the Dallas Mavericks have won 12 straight games and they haven’t even trailed the last four.
But they have a flaw that gnaws at coach Avery Johnson: They’re getting bored with all the big leads they’re piling up.
Fueled by a 38-point first quarter and a 62-point first half, the Mavericks cruised past the Sacramento Kings 109-90 Friday night despite some obvious bouts with complacency.
How else do you explain Jerry Stackhouse shooting an airball from 12 feet at the end of the first quarter?
Or Devean George blowing a dunk just before halftime?
As proud as he has to be over the third-longest winning streak in club history—all since an 0-4 start—Johnson rarely lets it show. He called a timeout after a few defensive breakdowns while up 25 in the third quarter, and in the huddle barked about them having several fouls in the quarter while the Kings didn’t have any.
“It’s not always going to be like this,” Johnson said. “We’ve hit a stretch where we’re getting away (from opponents) with some leads now.”
Josh Howard made 10-of-14 shots and scored 24 points, and Dirk Nowitzki added 18 in 20 minutes, but still seemed bothered by the blurred vision that knocked him out of the previous game. He missed eight of his first nine shots and finished 4-of-15; he went 10-of-10 from the line, though, and had 10 rebounds.
“That Nowitzki kid is going to have to work on his shooting,” Johnson said, proving he can have some fun.
Said Nowitzki: “I had a lot of good looks tonight, especially in the first half, but I really couldn’t get anything going.”
And, yes, he was able to see those good looks, saying his vision “was great today.”
The key to the Mavs’ strong play lately has been terrific starts. They’ve scored at least 33 points in five straight first quarters, all since Howard returned from an injury. The 62 points at halftime was a season high.
“Zoom, zoom, zoom, we come out running,” said Devin Harris, who had 13 points and six assists.
Actually, it was 3-pointers that built this lead.
Dallas went 7-of-9 in the opening period to finish it ahead 38-19, then opened the second quarter with another 3. The Mavericks were 3-of-11 behind the arc after that, but it hardly mattered.
Sacramento scored 41 points in the first half, only three more than Dallas had in the first quarter. The lead peaked at 32 in the third quarter, and the Kings didn’t get within 20 in the second half until the game’s final basket.
Sacramento had won two straight. The Kings had not trailed by more than 12 after one quarter or one half this season and their most lopsided loss had been by 13.
Perhaps the worst thing Dallas did was anger Ron Artest.
“I’m going to remember this game,” said Artest, who didn’t start because of a flare-up of an ongoing back problem, but led the Kings with 15 points. “I want to come back to Dallas and take a victory.”
Kevin Martin was the only Sacramento starter to crack double digits, scoring 13. Then again, with a game in San Antonio on Saturday night, coach Eric Musselman limited all his starters to 24 minutes or less.
Dallas padded its winning streak with four straight games at home and five of the last six. The Mavericks will try matching the 13-game winning streak by last season’s team when they play at Washington on Monday night, then hope to try going for the club record of 14 the next night in New Jersey.
If they can pull that off, they’d go for a new mark at home Thursday night against Detroit, the next-hottest team in the league right now with eight straight wins.
At 12-4, Dallas now has a full-game lead over San Antonio in the Southwest Division and is a half-game behind Utah for the best record in the NBA—just like you’d expect from the reigning Western Conference champions.
“We’re trying to get back to that championship series in June and hopefully this time we can win it,” Howard said.
Could this year’s team be even better than last year’s club?
“I think we’re deeper than we were last year,” Nowitzki said. “We added some nice pieces. … It’s going to be another long grind.”
Mavs owner Mark Cuban was back from the GQ Man of the Year awards in Los Angeles, where he was honored alongside the likes of Al Gore, Spike Lee and the cast of “Jackass.” The big news: He wore a suit to the event, the first time he’s done that all year. For this game, he broke out a new T-shirt that read, “Property of David Stern University.” … Artest and Shareef Abdur-Rahim got technicals the night the players’ association filed a grievance over the “zero-tolerance” policy being enforced by officials.