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Nash (24 points, 13 assists) pilots Mavs to victory

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks really are working on their defense. The proof will take a little longer.

Steve Nash scored 24 points and handed out 13 assists as Dallas beat the Memphis Grizzlies 119-108 Wednesday night, the NBA's highest-scoring team picking up right where it left off last season. But they also let one of the league's worst scoring teams stay too close for comfort.

Assistant Del Harris, filling in for suspended coach Don Nelson, said good defense just doesn't happen overnight.

"We don't want to give up 108 points, but w think our defense nonetheless is coming along,'' he said.

Nash defended the Mavericks' defense against a Memphis team that topped 100 points only 16 times last season.

"The fourth quarter we got sloppy with the ball, and then they got hot. It was certainly a wake-up call, a situation you don't want to be in after being up 20 points,'' Nash said.

The Mavericks, who averaged 105.2 points last season, continued
their domination of the Grizzlies by winning their eighth straight
in a series they lead 24-4.

Michael Finley scored 21 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas. Nick Van Exel had 16 off the bench, Raef LaFrentz 14 and Eduardo Najera 12.

Memphis, featuring seven new players courtesy of new basketball
operations director Jerry West, gave the crowd of 16,638 something
to cheer about despite trailing 100-80 at the start of the fourth
quarter as the Mavericks took what Harris called "frivolous
shots.''

Gordon Giricek, one of those new players, rallied the Grizzlies
with four 3-pointers and keyed a 12-0 spurt that made it 106-102
with 4:08 to go. Nash then drove the baseline, scored and hit the
free throw for a three-point play. The Grizzlies couldn't get
closer than six the rest of the way.

"We got a little lackadaisical,'' Nowitzki said. "We left them
open, they started knocking down shots.''

The Grizzlies hurt themselves by going 17-of-32 at the free
throw line.

"We're still not in great shape, and the season has started,'' Memphis guard Jason Williams said. "You can't give up easy baskets. First of all, they make all the tough shots, then you give up the easy ones.''

Giricek finished with 29 points for Memphis. Pau Gasol, last
season's rookie of the year, had 27 points and 10 rebounds despite
playing with his left hand heavily wrapped to protect a sprained
wrist. Rookie Drew Gooden debuted with 16 points with Roy Williams,
his coach at Kansas, in the stands for support.

Harris said he and Nelson always thought that Gooden was the
best player available in the draft, and he was very impressed with
Giricek.

"They made a great acquisition in him. He showed he belongs in the NBA,'' Harris said.

Gasol scored 11 points in the first quarter, and Lorenzen
Wright's two free throws at 8:12 of the second pulled Memphis to
39-35. That was as close as the Grizzlies would get until the
fourth as the Mavericks led 64-54 at halftime and used an 18-8 run
in the third to lead by as much as 20.

Game notes
The Mavericks opened the season on the road for only the 10th time in team history, and they evened their record in such games to 5-5. ... Shawn Bradley missed on a dunk with 3:00 left in
the second quarter. ... Flu sidelined Stromile Swift the same day
as the Grizzlies picked up his option year for $4.6 million. ... Memphis picked up Mike Batiste off waivers and put Robert Archibald on injured reserve just before the game. ... The Grizzlies now are 2-6 in season openers. ... Grizzlies F Wesley Person had one steal, giving him 500 for his career. ... The Grizzlies have beaten Dallas only once in seven years at home, and that victory was Feb. 14,
1999, in Vancouver. Their last victory in this series was Nov. 8, 2000, at Dallas.