This was hardly fair: A rested team aiming to improve its playoff position and build on a home-court winning streak against a tired team playing out a miserable season and missing its second-leading scorer.
The Dallas Mavericks gladly took it.
Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry came back from a four-day break as sharp as ever and J.J. Barea led a late surge, sending the Mavericks to a 128-106 victory over the weary, woeful Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.
The Mavs scored their most points of the season and narrowly missed their most-accurate, too, settling for 58.5 percent. They went ahead for good when the game was only a few minutes old, then when the Warriors got within four late in the third quarter, Barea quickly ended any suspense, going on an 8-0 run that had Dallas up by 21 a few minutes later.
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"Offensively, we had a pretty good night," Nowitzki said. "Defensively, we had some letdowns. We definitely have to be better defensively as the competition gets better."
Dallas won its ninth straight at home, a streak that bears watching because the Mavs are home for seven of their final 11 games. They hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but are only three games behind Houston for third.
Another scheduling quirk is that Dallas just finished an All-Star-break-like layoff. Coach Rick Carlisle apparently found the right mix of practice considering his team scored 37 points in the first quarter and was hitting 70 percent of its shots late in the second quarter.
"I thought, all things considered, we handled it well," Carlisle said. "We had two good days of practice. They weren't long practices but they were hard and guys worked."
Terry jammed his shooting wrist Tuesday and Carlisle wasn't sure how it would be for this game. So he didn't turn in a starting lineup to opposing coach Don Nelson; Nelson retaliated by not giving out his lineup, either.
"He has every right to do that," Carlisle said. "I understand."
Carlisle decided to go with Terry because he felt good during warm-ups and the coach wanted to keep him in the flow. It was a good call as Terry was 8-of-10 in the first half. Nowitzki was 7-of-8, and the duo finished with 26 points each.
Barea scored 20, including an 8-0 run at the end of the third quarter that included three straight layups then a pair of free throws after getting whacked on his next drive into the lane. Early in the fourth quarter, he twisted from one defender, got by another with an up-and-under move and then spun the ball in off the backboard for yet another layup.
"They kept calling that high pick-and-roll for me and I kept being aggressive," Barea said.
Of course, it helped to be playing Golden State -- which has now lost three straight and four of five, plus seven in a row on the road.
Worse yet for the Warriors, they were playing their third game in four days and were coming off a last-minute loss in San Antonio. In that game, Corey Maggette hurt his head in a collision with a Spurs player, keeping him out of this one and probably the next game, which is Saturday night at Denver.
"It was one of those tough nights," said Golden State's Stephen Jackson, who scored eight points in the first quarter and only four more the rest of the game. "We didn't get calls, things were going their way, our defense was terrible. They stayed on it the whole game and we were never able to get back."
Well, they were within 87-83 late in the third quarter.
"I guess we did, I really wasn t paying too much attention," Jackson said. "They did what they needed to do to win the game. They re trying to get a playoff spot and they played like it tonight."
Anthony Morrow was 10-of-11 for 29 points, his most since November, and Monta Ellis scored 22. Nelson praised Morrow and said Ellis played OK, "but other than that I don't think anybody else had a really good game. But, that's the way it goes."