SALT LAKE CITY — Dallas coach Rick Carlisle issued a challenge to his bench players prior to the fourth quarter of his team's 93-81 win over the Jazz on Friday night.
After his subs were severely outplayed by Utah's reserves in the second quarter, he simply asked them what they were going to do about it.
"In the second quarter, Coach really challenged us," said Dallas guard Jason Terry, who came off the bench and had 12 points, five assists and five steals. "He said they kicked our butts up and down the court in the second quarter and what were we going to do about it? Each guy looked at each other and we went out and played hard defensively and things started to happen."
They certainly did — and all were positive for the Mavericks.
An 11-0 run by Dallas to start the fourth blew the game open, as Dirk Nowitzki and four bench players, including Terry, did all the work. The Mavericks built a 77-62 lead to put the game away early.
"Our bench has really given us a lot," Carlisle said. "We were able to strike a balance tonight. Keeping Jason Kidd under 30 (minutes) was huge. Dirk had a lot in the tank because we were able to rest him earlier in the game. The key was kept getting stops."
That's been the key all season for the Mavericks, who at 15-4 have the second-best record in the Western Conference and are off to their best start since the 2002-03 season when they won 17 of their first 18 games.
Dallas has held 10 of its 19 opponents to 10 points below their scoring average. The Jazz entered Friday's game averaging 102 points per game and finished well below that total against the defensive-minded Mavericks.
"Tonight was a great effort defensively," Terry said. "That's where it starts for us. We've been hanging our hat on it all year. Once we got our defense going, and got out in transition we finished well."
The Mavericks also finished the Jazz's seven-game winning streak and extended their own to eight. It was the fifth time this season Dallas has ended a winning streak of at least five games. The Mavericks' other victims were San Antonio (12 wins), New Orleans (eight wins), Oklahoma City (five wins) and Boston (five wins).
"It's a great win for us," Carlisle said. "We're best when we can rebound it and get in transition and get in flow. When we can space the floor and move it and screen and find each other, we're going to play better basketball. In the first half it was hard because we kept taking it out of the net."
Nowitzki did most of the work for Dallas on offense. He scored 26 points on 12 of 18 shooting. In the fourth quarter, he hit a 13-foot, fadeaway bank shot to give Dallas a 73-62 lead. The shot impressed the EnergySolutions crowd, took some life out of the Jazz, and is probably one of his favorite H-O-R-S-E shots.
"The one he hit off the glass, man, I don't know what defense you have for that," Terry said. "It was a tough shot. It was unbelievable. I see him do it in practice, but in a game situation (with) 20,000 fans screaming at you — it's unbelievable."
Nowitzki scored 15 of his points in the second half, as he didn't get into much of a rhythm until after halftime. Once he did though, it was lights out for the Jazz.
"It was a weird kind of game for Dirk," Terry said. "He started kind of slow but in the third quarter he showed you why he's an MVP. He made shot after shot."