Nowitzki wills Mavs back from brink of another loss

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks easily could have followed their historic collapse on Friday night with another shocking loss.

Dirk Nowitzki was too stubborn to allow it.

Nowitzki scored 35 points as the league-leading Mavericks barely shook off the effects of their debacle in Los Angeles, rallying from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit Saturday night to beat the Golden State Warriors 121-116.

After blowing a 27-point lead against the Lakers in the
second-biggest fourth-quarter collapse in NBA history, Dallas
clearly felt a hangover effect during the first 42 minutes against
the improving Warriors.

Golden State led by 15 in the third quarter, when Dallas coach Don Nelson got ejected and the energized Arena crowd sensed an upset -- but Nowitzki, the All-Star who was no factor in the loss to the Lakers, demanded the ball repeatedly in the fourth quarter. He bulled the Mavericks back into the lead with 14 points.

"Yesterday, I only had 11 shots,'' Nowitzki said. "I wanted this win pretty bad after that tough loss yesterday. I still don't know how we lost that game, so we just had to show we're a good team, and come out and recover.''

The Mavs made a 10-2 run in the final minutes, with Nowitzki
elbowing his way past Troy Murphy for two baskets that turned the
tide. Nick Van Exel scored 19 points as Dallas beat Golden State
for the 15th straight time and finished the first 20 games of the
season with a league-high 18 victories.

"Mentally, it just took us a while to get into it,'' said Dallas assistant Donn Nelson, who finished the game for his father. "Our energy was a little lacking in the first half, and certainly our focus was, because we missed all kinds of defensive assignments.''

Earl Boykins scored 23 points in a reserve role as the Warriors outplayed the Mavericks until the final minutes, when their inexperience showed. Antawn Jamison had 26 points and 14 rebounds, while Jason Richardson scored 22 points.

Warriors coach Eric Musselman was pleased by his young team's effort -- but he was even more pleased that his players were disappointed that they allowed the league's best team off the hook.

"There's nothing positive about this game,'' said Gilbert Arenas, who had 13 points and 11 assists. "We're up the whole game, and we let up in the fourth quarter. That's not positive. It would have been fantastic if we won this game.''

The Mavericks' hangover was clear -- and on the fourth night of a five-game homestand, Golden State was energized from the opening tip. The Warriors jumped out to an early lead, and Boykins scored 14 points in the second quarter on outside jumpers and driving bank shots.

With less than 10 seconds left in the first half, Boykins stole
the ball from Van Exel and drove for a layup that put Golden State
up 62-54 and earned a standing ovation for the 5-foot-5 guard.

The Warriors made a 17-7 run in the third quarter to take a
15-point lead. The Mavericks played mostly terrible defense, but
they made enough shots to stay close despite Richardson's 12 points
in the quarter.

The Mavericks roared past Golden State in the final minutes, but Musselman couldn't complain.

"Sure, Dallas scored 121 points, but they can do that on a lot of nights,'' he said. "I thought our defensive intensity was pretty doggone good. Not too often when Dallas plays are you able to look up at the shot clock, and it's winding down to 2 seconds or less. We were able to do that a few times.''

Nelson was ejected for protesting a non-call. Nowitzki was brushed by Gilbert Arenas as Nowitzki missed a breakaway layup early in the third.

Nelson screamed at referee Monty McCutcheon as his son held him back -- but McCutcheon called a technical on Don Nelson, then another when the coach didn't stop arguing.

Nowitzki also got eight rebounds. Steve Nash had 14 points, and Shawn Bradley added 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Murphy had 10 points and 13 rebounds, though he was unable to
slow down Nowitzki on defense in the closing minutes.

Game notes
Chris Mills scored four points in his season debut for the
Warriors, who activated him from the injured list earlier in the
day. Tendinitis kept Mills out of the preseason and the Warriors'
first 19 games. ... On consecutive possessions in the second
quarter, ill-advised defensive switches left Boykins guarding Raef
LaFrentz and Nowitzki. ... Both teams had six players who scored in
double figures.


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