With starting center Tyson Chandler missing the morning shootaround because of a stomach bug, third-stringer Ian Mahinmi was told to be ready because the Dallas Mavericks were going to need his athleticism to keep pace with the Golden State Warriors.
Fourth-stringer Alexis Ajinca? He was just hoping to pitch in.
The pair of French big men ended up playing a huge role in the Mavericks' 105-100 victory Tuesday night. Mahinmi had 12 points and a career-high 10 rebounds and Ajinca had three points and a career-high six rebounds to lift Dallas to its 10th straight victory.
"Hard work pays," Mahinmi said. "We're going to keep doing that. It's great for both of us."
Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points, Jason Terry had 20 and Caron Butler 19 for the Mavericks, but that's expected. Coach Rick Carlisle couldn't have predicted how active, energetic and productive the two deep reserves were, especially considering how little they had played.
Mahinmi logged 21 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter, after having been used only 39 minutes all season. Ajinca went from three minutes all season to nine, all coming after fill-in starter Brendan Haywood and Mahinmi were on the bench with two fouls apiece.
Mahinmi and Ajinca were active on both ends of the court, energizing the building and the bench. Every time they went to the rim, the Mavericks who weren't in the game stood with as much anticipation as anyone else in the arena.
"I thought Lex was the big one," Dallas point guard Jason Kidd said. "We've seen Mahinmi do this, but Alexis stepped in and got six rebounds, blocked shots and made a couple of shots."
This was the start of a six-game homestand for the Mavericks. The way they handled this game bodes well for their chances of extending the streak.
Although Golden State's last lead was 79-78, the Warriors kept hitting 3-pointers to keep from falling behind by very much. They hit a pair in the final half-minute that forced Dallas to hit some free throws to seal it.
Golden State lost its fourth straight and ninth in 10 games. Stephen Curry scored 21 points, David Lee had 20, Monta Ellis 18 and Dorrell Wright 17.
"We're not getting the results as far as the wins we need, but we're playing hard," Warriors coach Keith Smart said. "When we put it all together, we'll be a good team. Our hearts are in the right place. We practice hard and compete. We're right there with a lot of the top level teams. We'll turn the corner if we play with this kind of effort."
The Warriors made 10 of 20 3-point attempts, but were only 6 of 13 on free throws.
"We have nothing to hang our head about," Ellis said. "I think this was the first game all season where we played all 48 minutes. It was a tough battle and we played them great."
Chandler has been a key piece of the Mavericks' improvement this season, mainly by anchoring the rebounding and defense. But he was so sick Tuesday that the team told him to stay home.
That gave Haywood his first start of the season, but a pair of early fouls brought on Mahinmi. Then his pair of fouls brought on Ajinca late in the first quarter.
He grabbed three rebounds on each end, blocked two shots and had a steal. He took four shots, making only a 15-footer from the baseline. He also made a free throw.
Haywood regained the job in the second quarter and started the second half. But once Mahinmi got back in, Carlisle stuck with him.
Mahinmi was so aggressive on offense that he took 10 free throws, making eight. Seven of his rebounds came on the offensive end. He also had two steals and a block, plus altered several shots.
"It was definitely a great feeling to be on the floor to the last minute," Mahinmi said. "I get more experiences. That's what I'm looking for."
Terry said he was excited to see Mahinmi and Ajinca capitalize on their opportunity.
"That's what I've been seeing since training camp, what I see in practice," Terry said.
Ajinca pointed out that the third member of Dallas' French Connection, injured guard Rodrigue Beaubois, scored 40 points against the Warriors last season.
"I guess French guys don't like Golden State," Ajinca said, laughing.
NOTES: This is the ninth time in franchise history the Mavericks have won at least 10 straight. They had a 13-game streak last season. ... Golden State leads the league in steals, but Dallas had more, 12-10. ... Mahinmi's eight free throws in this game match how many Haywood has made all season. ... Haywood had four points, six rebounds and three blocks in 18 minutes.