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Archive for Monday, April 29, 2002

Nowitzki propels Mavericks

Dallas gets sweep with 115-102 win

April 29, 2002

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— The Dallas Mavericks can score, and it doesn't matter where they play or who's taking the shots.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 of his 39 points before halftime and lent his hot hand to Michael Finley in the second half Sunday, helping the Mavericks hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves and finish a three-game sweep with a 115-102 victory.

Finley had 13 of his 30 points in the third quarter and Steve Nash had 25 points and 11 assists for Dallas, which shot 13-for-24 from 3-point range and advanced to the second round for the second consecutive year and will meet the winner of the Utah-Sacramento series.

"We're always confident down the stretch," Nash said. "We've got so many shooters, we're bound to make a couple."

The Mavericks, after winning the first two in Dallas, continued their impressive play away from home by withstanding a 22-7 run by Minnesota to start the fourth quarter behind a deafening Target Center crowd of 18,795.

Dallas has a league-leading 27-14 record on the road this year.

"It's just the best thing in the world for us to go through this kind of atmosphere," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "It makes you mature as a player. The more of these we can get, the better."

Kevin Garnett had 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Wally Szczerbiak and Anthony Peeler each scored 20 points for the Timberwolves, who made their sixth straight first-round exit from the playoffs.

Minnesota owned the league's second-best record at the halfway point this year but wasted a chance at homecourt advantage in the first round by losing 22 of its last 42.

But an extra home game probably wouldn't have mattered against Dallas.

"They're a good team," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "Everybody was saying you've got to slow the game down, but what are you going to do tell Nash, Nowitzki and Finley they're not allowed to shoot?"

Up by 18 starting the fourth, Dallas suddenly went cold as Minnesota pulled within three, 104-101, on a free throw by Garnett with under three minutes to go.

But Eduardo Najera's rebound and putback after a timeout put the Mavericks back up by five, and Szczerbiak's 3-pointer rimmed out with two minutes to go.

Nash sank a 3 on the other end to make it 109-101, and Peeler's pass went right to Finley in the lane on the next possession.

"We wanted this one so badly," Nowitzki said. "We're trying to go all the way. We're talented enough."

Nowitzki, who scored 99 points in the series, had 17 rebounds and shot 11-for-17 from the field and 14-for-16 from the line.

Chauncey Billups, who scored 16 points, made an open 3-pointer with 3:48 left in the third to bring Minnesota to 85-77, but then Finley despite tight defense by Szczerbiak picked it up.

Finley scored eight points during a 12-0 run by Dallas, giving the Mavericks their biggest lead at 97-77 just before the end of the quarter.

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