EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The unbeaten streak has reached
double figures for the Dallas Mavericks, whose newfound commitment
to defense helped them defeat the New Jersey Nets 96-88 Saturday
Steve Nash scored 30 points, Michael Finley had 20 points and 13 rebounds, Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Shawn Bradley scored 12, including a pair of jumpers that started the Mavericks on a game-closing 13-5 run.
With a record of 10-0, the Mavericks are the NBA's only unbeaten
"I would have to say this: People can play a lot of years in
this league and never start 10-0,'' Bradley said. "What determines
how neat of a start this is depends on what we do from here.''
Dallas has held eight of its opponents under 100 points, and the
defensive effort was there once again down the stretch against the
defending Eastern Conference champions.
New Jersey was held to just five points in the final 5:50, and
the Mavericks kept Jason Kidd off the boards in the fourth quarter
to prevent him from a triple-double.
Dallas is holding teams to 89 points per game after allowing 101 last season -- the second-highest opponents' average in the league.
"Sacramento exposed our lack of defense in the second round of
the playoffs. It wasn't there last year, and we know if we want to
do something in the playoffs we first have to get better
defensively,'' Nash said. "It's our mindset now.''
Kidd had 22 points, 13 assists, nine rebounds and five steals,
and Kerry Kittles added 21 points for the Nets, who lost at home
for the first time this season after winning their first five.
Bradley hit consecutive outside jumpers and Nash made a pull-up jumper and a drive through traffic for an 8-0 run that gave Dallas a 91-83 lead with 2:20 left. Kerry Kittles hit a 3-pointer with 1:56 remaining for New Jersey's first points in 4 minutes, but Nowitzki answered with a 20-footer after an offensive rebound.
Kenyon Martin was then whistled for traveling, one of 19
turnovers by New Jersey, and Nowitzki hit a pair from the line with
59 seconds left for a nine-point lead.
"The Nets looked like they had our number tonight. We couldn't get a lot going for a good portion of the game,'' coach Don Nelson said. "In the fourth quarter we were able to go on a spurt, and when you're on a roll your confidence is soaring and your team never gives up hope. We would like to keep this winning alive for as long as we can.''
The game stayed close most of the way, the Mavericks repeatedly
pulling a little ahead only to have the Nets catch them before the
process would repeat itself.
New Jersey finally broke that mold by closing the third quarter
with a 17-2 run, with Kidd scoring 10 points, to take a 73-67 lead
into the fourth.
A 9-0 run by Dallas gave the Mavericks a 78-76 lead, but Lucious
Harris hit his third 3-pointer of the quarter to tie it at 83-83
with 5:37 left. Bradley hit a corner jumper with 5:05 left to give
Dallas the lead for good.
"They are 10-0 for one reason -- they play together,'' Kidd said. "Tonight, Steve had a wonderful game, Finley had a great game and Dirk, by his standards, was just on. Those guys can knock down big shots at any time.''
Jason Collins and Nowitzki drew double technicals after a
minor altercation in the second quarter, and Nowitzki was charged
with a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter for hitting Richard
Jefferson on a breakaway. ... Mark Strickland, signed by Dallas
earlier in the day after the NBA granted a hardship roster
exception, did not play. ... Martin wore a face mask after breaking
his nose in Friday night's victory at Miami. ... Dallas has won
five in a row over the Nets. The Mavs were the only team to sweep
New Jersey last season.