Tyson Chandler fights through illness

DALLAS -- One of the Dallas Mavericks' equipment men handed Tyson Chandler a trash can and a towel while the big man sat on the bench.

Chandler proceeded to puke with as much privacy as possible during a nationally televised game in a sold-out arena.

"It's not something that you wanted to see," said Chandler, who soon retreated to the Mavs' locker room. "It wasn't pretty."

Many Mavs fans probably felt the same way at that point. After all, they were watching the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers build a double-digit lead over a Dallas squad stuck in its longest losing streak in more than a decade.

After continuing to deposit his guts in a trash can, Chandler returned for the second half, determined to give his desperate team every ounce of energy he could muster while fighting the flu. Not coincidentally, the rest of the Mavs rediscovered their guts in an inspired 109-100 victory to snap a six-game skid Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.

Chandler, who had 10 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes after missing the previous two games, certainly didn't have the most impressive statistical line for the Mavs.

That belongs to point guard Jason Kidd, who busted out of a miserable offensive funk with a season-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 10 assists. Jason Terry and Shawn Marion had matching 22-point nights off the bench, playing major roles in the Mavs' best shooting night of the season (55 percent).

But Chandler changed the game. He returned with authority, throwing down a two-hand dunk on the opening possession of the second half, but he really made his impact on the other end. The Mavs held the Lakers, who lit it up in the first half, to 17 points in the third quarter to take a lead they never relinquished.

Coach Rick Carlisle constantly preaches that defense will be the key to the Mavs' chances to be legitimate contenders. For two months, the Mavs clearly received the message, ranking among the league's top defensive teams during their 24-5 start.

The Dallas defense had deteriorated drastically recently. It was especially awful during Monday's loss in Detroit, when Chandler was forced to watch due to that nasty flu. And that trend continued in the first half against the Lakers.

It halted in the third quarter, when the Lakers struggled just to get shots off, committing seven turnovers. Chandler came up with two steals and shut down the easy access to the rim.

As Kidd said, it was time for the Mavs to make a stand. Their big man made that possible.

"It was a huge gut check for us," Chandler said. "It just seemed like guys were sick of losing."

Chandler, however, was the only one dealing with a weeklong illness. It got so bad that he took the clippers to his hair, cutting off his curls because he said he worried that the combination of "Soul Glo" and cold air was keeping him from getting healthy.

The Mavs hope Chandler's illness isn't contagious. However, they're thrilled that his energy is.

"He's a warrior," said All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who didn't have an efficient night (14 points on 5-of-15 shooting) in his third game back from a sprained right knee. "He's definitely our emotional leader. I said it after the Detroit game. I tried to get something going, tried to get in the guys' faces to get them fired up, but when he's out there all over the place, making plays, pounding his chest, that's just great for our team.

"That's why we need him. That's why, when we had those amazing first couple of months, he was our MVP."

Nowitzki meant most valuable player, not most violent puker. Either one worked on the night the Mavs finally found a cure for losing.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.