"The first thing I want to say,'' said the Dallas Mavericks' Vince Carter after Tuesday's 103-94 win at Washington, is ... 'finally'.''
The second thing that needs to be said as Dallas snaps its six-game losing streak is: Don't you dare dismiss this as "Aw, it's just the Wizards'' ... because in Washington, all things considered, they probably approached this game by saying, "Aw, it's just the Mavs.''
This was "just the Mavs'' in a positive and all-too-rarely-seen way as Dallas has struggled to a 13-19 record that puts it in danger of non-playoff contention.
This was "just the Mavs'' with point guard Darren Collison boasting an 8/1 assists/turnover ratio (to go with his 15 points) and continuing a five-game run during which he's averaged 18 points, five assists and two turnovers.
This was "just the Mavs'' with Chris Kaman earning rare praise from his coach for frequently assuming a textbook defensive stance. (Yes, along with his 12 points, these things matter right now.)
This was "just the Mavs'' featuring zero turnovers from the frequently butter-fingered O.J. Mayo (who also had 15 points and five assists).
This was "just the Mavs'' with Shawn Marion offering an 11-points/13-rebounds double-double, with Dirk Nowitzki (11 points in 17 minutes off the bench) looking much more UberManly, and with Carter leading the way with 23 points, resounding dunks to begin and end the game serving as bookends.
(Lots of Mavs to choose from as we vote on "The Dirkie'' for Player of the Game. Check it out here!)
Yes, Washington is 4-25 and an even worse version of itself due to the absence of one third of its roster, including John Wall. Bradley Beal scored 22 points and had too little help in trying to maintain Washington's early 14-point lead.
But if you are aware that this is the Mavs' first win since they downed the 76ers on Dec. 18 and their first road win since Dec. 8 at Houston ... you let yourself enjoy the lack of queasiness in your stomach.
"So this is what a road win feels like?'' Dirk joked. "It's been awhile."
You know the nausea might come back on Wednesday when the second night of a back-to-back places the Mavs in Miami ... but "just the Mavs'' is just good enough for now. In fact, if the first day of the new year allows you a glimmer of hope, you are not alone. Two veteran Mavs with rings see the glimmer, too.
"I feel like once I get my legs back and get into the groove we could beat some people,'' said Dirk.
"Anything is possible,'' added Marion.