When his top players are healthy, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has the luxury of bringing off the bench Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, a pair of longtime starters capable of scoring 20 points any night.
Dallas, however, hasn't been anywhere near healthy the last few weeks. So Carlisle has been starting one, the other or both. And the Mavs were losing -- badly.
Terry and Marion returned to their roles as super subs on Wednesday night, each scoring 22 points to lift Dallas past the Los Angeles Lakers 109-100, ending an ugly six-game losing streak.
Jason Kidd snapped out of an awful stretch of his own, scoring a season-high 21 points to help the Mavericks end their worst losing streak in a decade.
"We know what we are capable of doing night in and night out, but we have to bring it," Terry said. "Early on in the season we all bought into the system and all bought into our collective roles. Of late we've had some inconsistency and people going in and out of the lineup, but now we are going to be able to see what we have again once we are consistent with our lineup again."
Dallas was riding high at 24-5 a few weeks ago. Then Dirk Nowitzki hurt a knee, Caron Butler was lost for the season and everything cratered. The Mavs went in a 2-9 funk that dropped them from the second-best record in the Western Conference to sixth-best if they'd lost this game. They'd lost each of their last five games by at least 10 points, their worst such stretch since their Mav-wrecks days in the mid-1990s.
They were ripe for another defeat Wednesday, down by 11 in the first half and still trailing by eight midway through the third quarter. Then, everything changed.
The defense got stop after stop, and they could do no wrong on offense. Kidd scored 13 points in the third quarter alone (his most points in any game this season had been 16) and Dallas had roared back so much it went into the final period leading by nine.
"We needed this one," Marion said.
Kobe Bryant tried getting the Lakers going all by himself, but couldn't do it. Terry and Marion kept the Mavericks up by at least seven points the entire fourth quarter, sending Los Angeles to just its second loss in 10 games.
"We were making mistakes all night on defense, because offensively things were going well for us," Bryant said. "It was one of those games that was fool's gold. We were playing well offensively and got a lead, but we were making mistakes defensively."
Pau Gasol scored 23 points, but took only four shots in the second half. Bryant had 21 points and 10 assists, and Lamar Odom had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
During the game-changing third quarter, Los Angeles scored only 17 points. The Lakers also turned the ball over seven times, from Andrew Bynum getting caught twice spending more than three seconds in the lane to Bryant throwing a pass that Gasol never saw coming.
"They got us on our heels," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
But who could've expected the Mavs to make a season-high 55 percent of their shots? Especially after they missed their first seven 3-pointers.
Dallas had a lot of things go wrong early, from newcomer Sasha Pavlovic possibly rebreaking his nose on the game's opening play to Tyson Chandler vomiting and spending much of the first half in the locker room.
Nowitzki is still regaining his stride. In just his third game back, he was 5 of 15 for 14 points.
The biggest surprise was Kidd. After missing 13 of his last 14 shots, and 12 of his last 13 3-pointers, he made 8 of 12, and 5 of 8 behind the arc. He also had 10 assists.
Another surprise was Pavlovic.
He moved into the starting lineup to help put Terry and Marion on the bench. That's unusual considering he was on the last day of a 10-day contract, and he just broke his nose in the previous game.
He was in no hurry to get it X-rayed to find out the latest damage. At least he got one bit of good news after the game: another 10-day contract.
NOTES: Bynum banged his elbow, but stayed in the game. Jackson said it would be examined, but he expected it to be OK. ... Gasol went over 13,000 career points. ... Jackson and Mavs owner Mark Cuban played nice, with neither doing much to raise the stakes in their verbal sparring. Cuban said he enjoys the back-and-forth. ... The Mavericks got off to a strange start. In the first quarter, they were 8 of 11 on 2-pointers and 2 of 10 on 3-pointers. They also had assists on nine of those 10 hoops.