Rather than lament how seldom it happens, they've learned to savor when it does -- such as Tuesday night, when his 14 points, 13 rebounds and high energy helped the Mavs beat the Chicago Bulls 111-99 for their first home victory of the season.
Going against NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, Dampier set season highs for points and rebounds. He made 7-of-8 shots with five dunks and blocked three shots. He even had his second assist of the season, which came on one of the many early plays that let his teammates know this was one of Dampier's nights to shine.
"When he's filling the lane and he's into the game, we're tough to beat," said guard Devin Harris, who made an acrobatic move to set up one of Dampier's rim-shaking dunks. "It makes everything so much easier when he's into it like that."
Dallas was 7-0 when Dampier had a double-double last season and is 35-7 when he scores at least 10 points. It's a terrific .833 winning percentage, but a lousy percentage of times that it has happened (.284, or 42 of 148).
"I need to see that about 85 more times this season," said Mavs coach Avery Johnson, who lobbied owner Mark Cuban to acquire Dampier two years ago.
Dampier's explanation for what got into him?
"I know I have to make the most of every opportunity I get," he said. "I just go out and play to the best of my abilities."
Dirk Nowitzki had 31 points and 10 rebounds as Dallas won its third straight following an 0-4 start. Two of those early losses were at home and the Mavs came out intent on avoiding a rare three-game home losing streak.
Dampier had the game's first two rebounds, one on each end of the court, then after helping prevent a layup got another offensive rebound and passed to Nowitzki for a jumper. His first dunk made it 15-5.
Chicago briefly went ahead in the second quarter, but never got closer than 70-67 in the second half. A nearly four-minute scoring drought in the fourth quarter doomed the Bulls' comeback hopes.
"We made it close a few times, but it felt like they were toying with us," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "They were quicker all over the floor."
Kirk Hinrich scored 25 points and Luol Deng added 24 for the Bulls, who were opening a seven-game road trip and breaking in a new starting lineup. Chris Duhon and Andres Nocioni joined the first five, with Ben Gordon and P.J. Brown going to the bench.
Gordon, who had been 2-of-18 his last two games, was 6-of-18 for 17 points.
Wallace, coming off an 18-rebound game, had only eight and six points. Nocioni scored 11, while Duhon had two on 1-of-6 shooting.
"We just couldn't stop them," Hinrich said. "There was always something that kept us from getting back in the game."
Nowitzki was 10-of-19 and made all 10 of his foul shots. He also had 10 rebounds, and seemed to have extra vigor after an early stuff by Deng that knocked Nowitzki to the ground.
He came back with a jumper in the lane, punctuated by a Michael Jordan-esque tongue wag, then a dunk with an emphatic scowl. Nowitzki also went down hard in an early third-quarter collision with Wallace, but neither seemed too shaken up by it. Nowitzki also was hit with a technical foul with 3:37 to play after disagreeing with consecutive calls.
Jerry Stackhouse added 21 for Dallas, which has beaten Chicago in 16 of the last 17 meetings.
- Brown narrowly avoided a flagrant foul when he took down Stackhouse from behind on what would've been a breakaway dunk.
- The Bulls have broken 100 points only once in their last 17 games against the Mavericks.
- Swingman Adrian Griffin, a regular starter for Dallas last season, now plays for Chicago but was in street clothes because of a calf injury.
- Mavs forward Josh Howard (ankle) is expected to start practicing next week.
- Skiles on his lineup moves: "Ben is arguably our most talented offensive player. When I see him going through some struggles, I have to wonder if he's better suited to this role. ... I think P.J. is better suited getting backup minutes at (center)."