The Mavericks are about to hit a more challenging stretch of their schedule, but they will do so with two valuable weapons in their arsenal – their corps of reserves and their department of defense.

Both were on full display Monday night.

The Mavericks have done a commendable job of getting out of the starting gate this season. When they dispatched the New Orleans Pelicans 108-92 at American Airlines Center, they pushed their record to 7-3 after manhandling a mostly soft early portion of the schedule.

That will change quickly.

With six of their next seven games on the road and all but one of those games against a team on the top side of .500, the degree of difficulty will go up markedly for the Mavericks in the next 10 days, starting at Chicago on Wednesday.

But you can only play who has been on the schedule. And so far, they have taken care of business.

They did it against the Pelicans with their defense as they kept an opponent under 100 points for the fourth time in the first 10 games. They won all those games.

“Holding a team under 100 points is not easy to do,” coach Jason Kidd said. “Our defense won this game for us.”

And a big part of that defense was the crew off the bench, led by Jalen Brunson and featuring Reggie Bullock and Frank Ntilikina.

The Mavericks’ bench outscored the New Orleans’ reserves 42-10, including 24-2 in the second half when the Mavericks pulled away from a tight game.

“It’s one of our strengths,” Kidd said. “When you look at those guys coming off the bench, they all can provide something different. I really believe our bench is a big part of our success.”

Brunson and Bullock keyed the getaway in the third quarter when the Mavericks went on a 12-2 run to go up 76-66. Brunson had four points and fed Bullock for a 3-pointer in that surge. The lead mushroomed to 93-71 early in the fourth quarter before a late New Orleans push was quelled with Brunson and Luka Dončić on the floor together.

And so, the Mavericks have successfully navigated the first 10 games.

“If we can keep this record 7-3 every 10 games, that’s pretty solid,” said Bullock, who had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. “We are a great offensive team, but it’s all about our defensive end. Once we are into it (defensively), things are going to flow a lot better on the offensive end.”

Monday was not a thing of beauty, but it still looked terrific in the end.

“We’re building chemistry every day, said Brunson of the bench brigade. “Those guys (Bullock and Ntilikina) have played extremely hard, whether their shots are falling or not. When you have guys on the court with that mentality, it’s really easy to play with them. A lot of credit to them. I love playing with them.”

Brunson finished with 17 points, six assists and four rebounds.

And of course, Dončić wasn’t bad, either. He had 25 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. He also had five turnovers, but just one after the first quarter, when the Mavericks fell behind by as much as 11 points.

The understaffed Pelicans started fast, but once they fell behind in the third quarter, they simply did not have enough firepower to make a serious rally. They were without Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, arguably their two best players, although Jonas Valanciunas (22 points, 11 rebounds) did a reasonable impersonation on Monday.

Down the stretch, the play of Brunson and Dončić was like they had been playing together for years, which, actually, they have now. They came into the league together in the 2018 draft.

“I guess it kind of starts with our relationship off the court,” said of his partnership with Dončić, which clearly is going to be the closing backcourt when games are tight. “We got here the same year, so we’ve known each other the past four years. He trusts me, that’s really it. I can’t take that trust for granted. It gives me confidence.”

Part of Brunson’s job, by the way, is to provide a voice of reason. While the Mavericks are happy to be 7-3, he said it’s way too early to get too excited about the situation.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We got a lot of work to do, but we’re on the right path.”

Twitter: @ESefko

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