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Nash, Nowitzki power Mavs down the stretch

DALLAS (AP) -- Steve Nash made sure the Dallas Mavericks kept one
unbeaten streak alive.

Nash scored seven of his 25 points during a crucial
fourth-quarter run and the Mavericks extended their home winning
streak to nine games Monday night with a 113-102 victory over the
Toronto Raptors.

''We believe we're a championship team and it's nice to be
winning,'' Nash said. ''We're just trying to compete because
everybody wants to beat the best.''

Dirk Nowitzki added 23 points, Nick Van Exel had 17 points in a
reserve role and Michael Finley scored 15 for the Mavericks, who
had their 14-game season-opening winning streak stopped last week
by Indiana but improved their league-best record to 16-1.

''We're pretty good right now,'' Finley said, ''but not to the
point where I think we can be. But we're going in the right
direction.''

Nash, considered one of the greatest players in Canadian
basketball history, shot 7-for-8 from the field and 10-for-10 from
the line, and finished with seven assists. Over his last two games,
Nash is 16-for-18 from the field.

Raef LaFrentz had 13 points and Shawn Bradley added 11 points,
eight rebounds and two blocked shots as Dallas survived a physical
game.

''The game didn't look that good because everyone expected that
we would win the game, but it was a very tough game for us,''
Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. ''We withstood the challenge and
found a way to win.''

Alvin Williams scored 27 points, Morris Peterson added 24 and
Antonio Davis 18 for the Raptors, who lost for the seventh time in
nine games.

Vince Carter, who scored 17 points, picked up his fifth foul
with 2:17 left in the third quarter and didn't return until 8:51
remained in the game.

The Mavericks held a 93-84 advantage when Carter returned, and
Dallas pushed its advantage to 95-84 on Van Exel's layup with 8:23
left.

Carter had two baskets during a 10-4 run as the Raptors closed
within 99-96. But Nowitzki scored from close range on consecutive
possessions, Nash hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 3:51 left
and added two layups to cap an 11-2 spurge that gave Dallas a
110-98 lead with 1:45 to play.

During the decisive stretch, one of Nowitzki's layups and Nash's
3-pointer were the result of bad passes by Alvin Williams and
Peterson.

''We got anxious and turned the ball over two times in a row,
and that hurt us,'' Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said. ''We were
right in that game and had a golden opportunity.''

Dallas took an 82-78 advantage into the fourth quarter.

The Mavericks opened the game with a 10-0 run, but the Raptors
got their offense on track following a timeout and finished the
first quarter leading 25-24.

Dallas held a 53-52 halftime lead. Nowitzki and Bradley each
scored 10 points in the first half.

Peterson's 18 points and Carter's 11 led the Raptors in the
first half.

The Raptors were encouraged that they were able to hang tough on
the road against the league's best team with a bench shortened by
injuries. Lindsey Hunter, Jerome Williams, Voshon Lenard, Nate
Huffman and Mamadou N'diaye are all out with injuries, and Carter
has been limited to seven games due to knee problems.

''We can definitely learn from this,'' Alvin Williams said. ''We
can learn from the situation. We get a loss out of this and there's
no plus to that, but every game you can learn from.''

Game notes
LaFrentz got his second start of the season. LaFrentz
started the opener, then missed 13 games due to a sprained ankle.
LaFrentz was activated from the injured list Saturday. ... The
Mavericks honored Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith for
becoming the NFL's career rushing leader. Smith received a No. 22
jersey from former Mavericks star and current assistant coach
Rolando Blackman, who wore the number for the Mavs before it was
retired. ... Shawn Bradley's layup attempt in the third quarter
rolled around the rim, then came to rest on the basket bracket,
forcing a jump ball that was won by Bradley. ... Nowitzki bruised
his right elbow in the third quarter when he fell after being
fouled. Nowitzki went to the locker room for treatment and an elbow
pad, and returned to finish the quarter. ... Mavericks G Raja Bell
was assessed a technical and ejected with 26.3 seconds left in the
third quarter after jostling for rebound positioning under the
Toronto basket. Bell was tossed by referee Steve Javie as the
officiating crew tried to keep control of the physical game.

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