So the Mavericks took the court Saturday night against Washington with three starters out and a guy who has been with the team 10 days in the lineup.

And, also, one coach back on the sideline.

Just another typical, mundane night in this garden-variety season, right?

The end of their longest road trip of the season came with more surprises after a previous 24 hours that by all rights should have exhausted their supply of strange twists and turns.

When they were done, the Mavericks got control of the game early in the fourth quarter and blew out the Wizards 109-87 Capital One Arena. The win put a lid on a 4-1 trip that pushed the Mavericks’ record to 27-21 as they come home Monday to face Utah, which has the best record in the NBA.

This is the fourth time this season the Mavericks have put together a four-game winning streak. They have yet to have a five-gamer.

Combined with Friday’s 99-86 win at New York, the Mavericks held back-to-back opponents under 90 points for the first time since February, 2017.

“This team is showing what it’s capable of,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The game last night in New York, holding them in the 80s. And tonight, holding these guys to 87. I don’t care if (Bradley) Beal is out and (Rui) Hachimura is out. These guys can score. And they got Russell Westbrook out there, who’s been averaging a triple double. This was a fast-paced game that we had to tempo a certain way and really stay in the fight defensively all the time.”

The Mavericks were without Kristaps Porzingis (injury management), Josh Richardson (left calf) and Maxi Kleber (left leg contusion). All could return Monday, although they are listed as day-to-day.

So into the lineup came Nicolo Melli, who arrived on trade deadline day and responded to his first start of the season with 10 points and eight rebounds, both season highs.

Melli said he found out about the starting assignment at the team meeting Saturday morning.

As Luka Dončić said: “He’s helping us. Since we got him, we’re undefeated, so let’s keep this rolling.”

Carlisle was a big more serious in commenting on his decision to start the 6-9 Melli.

“Melli, right now, with KP out and Maxi out, he’s a guy that we’re going to need to play minutes at four (power forward),” Carlisle said. “He’s showing a lot of versatility defensively with the ability to chase guys around the perimeter. He’s quick on his feet. He’s a guy we need right now.”

The Mavericks also got solid showings from Boban Marjanović with 15 points and 12 rebounds and Jalen Brunson (19 points).

And, of course, Dončić wasn’t bad, either, with 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

But this game and this sizzle that the Mavericks have been on is more about their defense than anything they’re doing offensively, although they have been sharing the ball well.

The defense has been getting better.

“We knew we could defend a lot better than we were the first month of the season,” Carlisle said. “It’s pretty well documented that the unexpected eight-day break (for the winter storm) with four high-level practices helped us step it up to another level.

“We became more physical. We were more focused on details. We were very fortunate. Now that meant we were going to have a little bit more crowded schedule in the second half. But a lot of other teams are in the same boat.”

As Carlisle mentioned, it’s important to note that the high-scoring Wizards did not have Beal, who leads the NBA in scoring at 31 points per game. But they did have Westbrook, who had 26 points and 14 rebounds but took 24 shots.

That may have been the best part of the Mavericks’ defense and it brought a smile to the face of Carlisle, who was coaching the Mavericks after his assistant, Jamahl Mosley, had led the Mavericks Friday in New York when Carlisle was temporarily sidelined with what turned out to be a false-positive COVID-19 test.

The Mavericks led most of the first half, but could never put any serious distance between them and the Wizards. A 52-47 halftime lead seemed kind of precarious.

Then again, not much seemed normal when this game started.

The Wizards are the fastest-paced team in the NBA, but had just 19 points after a quarter.

And the Mavericks were missing 60 percent of their starting lineup.

About the only bit of normalcy came when Carlisle was back to his usual spot prowling the sideline as the Mavericks’ coach. He had missed Friday’s game in New York because of what ultimately was found to be a false-positive COVID-19 test.

Carlisle said he had hoped that a false-positive would be the final outcome. But until he found out for sure late Friday night, there was always room for doubt.

It was another sign that in this crazy season, you can do everything right and still have things go haywire.

Twitter: @ESefko

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