Dirk Nowitzki rarely tries to make waves in the locker room. But in the last few days the German-born former MVP questioned the talent level of the team around him and suggested that Mark Cuban can't keep trying to build around short-term contracts.
One could say it may have been a challenge to his teammates to step up their game. If that's the case, it's worked so far.
The Mavericks have their first four-game winning streak of the year after Wednesday's 105-100 win over Houston at the American Airlines Center.
With three Mavs contributing at least 18 points, led by Nowitzki's 19, Dallas built a lead that hovered around the 10 point range for much of the late first/early second half. They led 88-77 with 9 1/2 minutes to play, only to see the Rockets come back t9o tie with less than two minutes left. But eight straight made free throws, including four from O.J. Mayo, helped put the game away.
Mayo's game has really stepped up during the streak. The former USC star has averaged 18 points in the last four games.
“We know he can score," Darren Collison said of Mayo. "But he's doing the other little things and it’s helping us out a lot."
And the Mavs haven't just beaten cupcakes either. The win over the Rockets, who were sitting at 21-18 before the game, was preceded by a 113-98 win over Minnesota, a 104-83 win over the 24-10 Memphis Grizzlies and a 117-112 win over Sacramento. So they have been beating opponents they should beat and getting some wins over better teams now.
The last win also showed their continued improvement on defense. Allowing 93 pouts per game in their last three, the Mavs held the league's highest scoring team to 39 percent shooting for the game.
"We always thought we could turn the corner, even when we were down at our lowest point," said Collison, who had 23 points in the win over Minnesota. "We were very optimistic."
There's still a lot of work to do, as the Mavs are still four games back of the Western Conference's final playoff spot.
But they will try to keep that optimism going when the league-leading Oklahoma City Thunder come into town.