By Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS -- The Mavericks and Timberwolves both have losing records, but they're going in opposite directions. Dallas has won three straight after Monday night's 113-98 pasting at American Airlines Center that sent Minnesota to its fourth loss in a row.
Elton Brand scored a season-high 20 points off the bench for the Mavericks, who improved to 16-23 and are in the midst of their longest winning streak since early December. The Dallas backcourt of O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison combined for 43 points.
The Mavericks never trailed and broke the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Wolves 36-25. Minnesota (16-19) hasn't been competitive during its skid. The four setbacks, all on the road, have been by an average of 16.8 points.
The Timberwolves had won two previous contests with Dallas this season and four of the last five, but the Mavericks proved unstoppable this time out. Brand made 10 of 13 from the floor, leading a 59.7 percent shooting barrage. Dallas had 33 assists on 46 baskets and turned the ball over only nine times.
Minnesota dominated on the boards, but was held to 41.2 percent shooting. Nikola Pekovic paced the visitors with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Former Dallas guard J.J. Barea scored 17 points in a reserve role.
What was a manageable game at halftime quickly got away from Minnesota in the third quarter. A step-back jumper from Dirk Nowitzki (10 points) early in the period built Dallas' lead to 15. Jae Crowder's breakaway layup late in the period stretched it to 23.
Brand had the hot hand throughout the first half, knocking down 7 of 8 shots as Dallas took a 55-45 lead into the locker room. Collison added 10 points, and the Mavericks were shooting 57.5 percent at the break.
The Wolves, down by as much as 11 points in the first quarter, closed to within a possession in the second behind Barea. The former Maverick was a familiar pest at both ends of the court, but a late push by Brand helped Dallas get lead back up to double figures by halftime.
The Mavericks continue their four-game homestand with the third outing Wednesday against Houston. Minnesota returns home to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
NOTES: Barea made it back-to-back games in the lineup for Minnesota after missing two games with back spasms. Barea, a member of the Mavericks' 2011 championship team, was playing at American Airlines Center for the first time since signing with the Timberwolves before 2011-12. Barea had missed each of the previous games in Dallas with injuries. ... Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman missed his fifth consecutive game to be with his wife, who is hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Assistant coach Terry Porter is the acting head coach. ... The Mavericks came into the back off two straight victories, their longest winning streak since early December. "I'm not under any false presumptions that we've got it figured out," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's not how this year is going to be. Every game is going to be challenging and we've got to really stick to it."