Mavs slow down Magic, win sixth straight


DALLAS (AP) -- After a slow start, Tim Hardaway is finally
getting comfortable coming off the bench.

Hardaway continued his recent roll as a super sub by scoring a
season-high 18 points, leading the Dallas Mavericks past the
deflating Orlando Magic 102-80 Saturday night in a matchup of the
league's highest-scoring teams.

"I'm having fun and enjoying it," said Hardaway, a five-time
All-Star who signed with Dallas in the offseason knowing he'd be
backing up Steve Nash. "I told everyone to bear with me and here
it is."

Hardaway was scoreless in four of the first 19 games and had
three points or less three more times. He's averaging 14.3 points
in the eight games since, with Dallas winning the last six.

The Mavericks needed Hardaway against the Magic because Michael
Finley and Steve Nash combined for 31 points, one game after
scoring 33 each, and because leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki played
just 20 minutes because of a sprained right ankle.

"Tim made some big shots," Finley said. "There was one period
where we couldn't make any shots and he came in and hit a couple."

Orlando led by five in the first quarter, then fell way behind
after an 18-8 Dallas run to start the second period. The Magic cut
a 24-point deficit to 12 with 8:49 left on a dunk by Patrick Ewing,
then Hardaway hit a 3-pointer and the Mavericks cruised from there.

Dallas came in averaging 102.3 points, just ahead of Orlando's
101.9. The Magic hurt their total with a season-low 75 points
Friday night; this was their second-lowest total.

It's no coincidence that Orlando's funk began when Grant Hill
went out with a season-ending ankle injury and Tracy McGrady
started having back problems.

"It's tough to make shots when you don't have guys to create
shots, and two of the best creators are on the sidelines," Magic
coach Doc Rivers said, adding that McGrady should return Wednesday.

Mike Miller had 20 points and the other four starters combined
for 21. Other than Ewing's 16 points, no backup had more than half
that. Jud Buechler played 22 minutes without scoring.

Orlando, playing its third game in four nights, shot 29 percent
in the first quarter and only 33 percent for the game.

Darrell Armstrong and Troy Hudson each went 2-for-11, with
Armstrong going 1-for-8 on 3-pointers. The Magic was 4-for-22 on
3-pointers en route to its fourth loss in five games and the
seventh in nine.

The Mavericks knew they were playing a depleted team, which
meant the chance to start their three-day Christmas break early.
Coach Don Nelson took advantage of the big lead and gave Finley and
Nash fewer minutes than usual.

"They've got injuries, but we've got a job to do, and that's to
win," Hardaway said.

Six players scored at least 10 points and some of the other
scorers hit key baskets. Wang Zhizhi hit consecutive 3-pointers to
start the second-quarter spurt that broke things open and Danny
Manning's only field goal gave Dallas 100 points; the Mavs are 14-0
when scoring that many this season.

"They got everyone contributing, with six guys in double
figures," Ewing said. "That's tough to beat."

Magic guard Jeryl Sasser came off the injured list prior to
tipoff, allowing him to make his NBA debut in the city where he
grew up and went to college.

Sasser, Orlando's first-round pick after being the career
scoring leader at Southern Methodist, had three points and three
rebounds in 15 minutes.

Game notes
Mavericks forward Donnell Harvey, a second-year player who
rarely plays, showed his superb athleticism by hanging in the air
and reaching way back for a third-quarter tip-in. ... To make room
for Sasser, the Magic placed center Steven Hunter on the injured
list with an injured right foot. ... Dallas scored 34 points in the
second quarter, its most in either of the first two periods this
season. ... This was the 997th victory for Dallas coach Don Nelson.