Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

NBA Roundup: Mavs hammer Wolves

Dallas hangs 119-95 defeat on flagging Minnesota

March 31, 2003


— The Mavericks strengthened their hold on first place in the West, while the Timberwolves let another chance for home-court advantage slip away.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 33 points in 34 minutes as Dallas beat Minnesota, 119-95, Sunday, sending the lethargic Timberwolves to their third straight loss.

Steve Nash had a season-high 15 assists to go with 14 points in just three quarters, and reserve Nick Van Exel contributed 19 points and nine assists.

Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolves, who fell behind for good in the first half and were down by 29 points after three quarters.

Michael Finley sat out his sixth straight game with a strained left hamstring, but the Mavericks didn't need him as they rebounded from a 112-95 loss to Portland two days ago.

While the Mavericks are trying to secure home-court advantage throughout the postseason, Minnesota is desperately seeking it for the first round -- something the Wolves never have had before. The Wolves dropped a half-game behind fourth-place Portland.

"They knew the importance of the game, and I think we knew the importance, but they got us back on our heels," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "It was like a heavyweight fight, where they gave us one, two, three haymakers, and we were groggy for the last 47 minutes."

Dallas (55-18) owns the league's best record and has had a playoff berth sewn up for some time, but the San Antonio Spurs entered Sunday just two games back in the Midwest Division. If it doesn't finish first, Dallas can do no better than the No. 3 seed since the Midwest and Pacific Division winners get the top two spots.

"We needed this in a big way," Van Exel said. "Every game is a difference-maker. Our schedule is tougher than (the Spurs') -- we can't afford to let it slip."

It's tough to figure out how a team can lose track of a 7-footer who can score from anywhere on the court, but the Timberwolves always have trouble keeping a man on Nowitzki.

They tried Garnett, Wally Szczerbiak and some zones, but Nowitzki was 13-for-20 from the field. He finished with 136 points in four games against Minnesota this year.

"We were just a little bit late in our rotations," Szczerbiak said, "and any time you give them shots like that, they're going to kill you."

With an earlier-than-usual 12:30 p.m. Central start time to accommodate ABC's national broadcast, the Wolves stayed in their slumber after allowing offensively challenged Miami to shoot 62 percent from the field in a 111-84 loss to the Heat Friday.

Rasho Nesterovic, in his second game back after missing five with a sprained ankle, had nine of his 11 points in the first half but was a step behind Shawn Bradley and Raef LaFrentz on the other end.

LaFrentz, a former Kansas University standout, had 11 of his 15 points in the second quarter as the Mavs went on a 10-0 run to open a 62-47 halftime lead.

Raptors 95, Knicks 86

Toronto -- Vince Carter scored 28 points as Toronto hurt the Knicks' slim playoff hopes. Allan Houston had 24 points for the Knicks, who have lost three straight and four of five. Latrell Sprewell scored just four points and was benched for the entire fourth quarter when the Knicks cut a 19-point deficit to four.

Bucks 109, Heat 87

Milwaukee -- Gary Payton had 24 points, and Sam Cassell had 23 points and nine assists as Milwaukee snapped a three-game losing streak. Toni Kukoc added 18 points and Michael Redd 14, and Desmond Mason had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee, whose reserves outscored Miami's 47-25.

Pacers 92, Suns 81

Indianapolis -- Jermaine O'Neal had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Ron Artest had 20 points as Indiana led by as many as 17. The Pacers have won two straight games after dropping 15 of 19 to fall into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Pistons 99, Kings 88

Auburn Hills, Mich. -- Detroit dominated when it mattered most, closing the game with a 15-1 run. Cliff Robinson scored 21 points, and Corliss Williamson had 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for the Pistons.

Spurs 92, Hornets 90

New Orleans -- Tim Duncan had 33 points and 12 rebounds, including a clinching three-pointer in the final minute, as San Antonio won its fifth straight.

Sonics 119, Lakers 98

Seattle -- Ray Allen scored 32 points, and Rashard Lewis returned from a one-game injury absence to score 24 as Seattle defeated the Lakers.

Nuggets 88, Wizards 72

Denver -- Shammond Williams scored eight straight Denver points early in the fourth quarter and finished with 15 to pace six Nuggets in double figures, spoiling Michael Jordan's final appearance in Denver. Jordan finished with 19 points for Washington, which shot only 35 percent.

Clippers 102,

Grizzlies 100

Los Angeles -- Corey Maggette scored six of his 18 points in the final 3:19 as the Clippers snapped a four-game losing streak. Rookie Chris Wilcox added 15 points for the Clippers, who won for only the sixth time in 28 games.

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