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Dallas makes sure another big lead doesn't go wasted

DALLAS (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks built another big lead, and
this time they didn't waste it.

Steve Nash scored 24 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points and
10 rebounds as the Mavericks bounced back to beat the Los Angeles
Clippers 102-92 Thursday night.

Michael Finley also had 20 points for the Mavericks, who held
off a late Clippers charge to improve to 15-2 at home and a
league-best 26-5 overall.

The Mavericks, who never trailed, were beaten at home by
Milwaukee 110-107 Monday night after leading by 17 in the first
half.

''If you're up 20, the energy goes down,'' Nowitzki said. ''We
saw what that did against Milwaukee.''

The Mavericks still need to do a better job of protecting a
comfortable lead, allowing the Clippers to chip a 24-point
third-quarter lead to as few as eight in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers could have pulled even closer but missed three
layups on consecutive possessions with less than four minutes to play.

''We've got to blow people away and be aggressive and not try to
conserve a lead,'' Nash said.

Dallas won for the seventh time in nine games despite going
1-for-11 from 3-point range, its fewest 3-pointers in a game this
season.

''We haven't shot the 3-ball well the last four or five games,
that's been a trend,'' said Nowitzki, who missed his only two
3-pointers. ''We've got to take it inside and then back outside,
that's our game. We'll keep taking shots.''

Lamar Odom had 20 points, Corey Maggette added 17 and Quentin
Richardson scored 14 for the Clippers, who've lost four in a row and six of seven. Elton Brand had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the
Clippers.

Dallas took a 78-59 advantage into the fourth quarter after
leading by as many as 24 earlier in the third.

But the Clippers went on a 20-4 run in the final quarter,
including two 3-pointers by Maggette and one by Richardson. Andre
Miller capped the spurt with consecutive baskets, the second with
4:57 left to draw the Clippers to 88-80 with 4:57 to play.

Finley's three-point play with 3:35 left expanded Dallas' lead to
91-80, and the Clippers never got closer than nine the rest of the
way.

''Guys just have to hit shots,'' Brand said. ''It's a lot of
open looks. It's a confidence-type thing. You can't get down to a
team like that. We just need to keep shooting with confidence.''

Dallas took command by as many as 20 points in the second
quarter and held a 47-31 halftime lead.

In the first half, the Clippers shot 30 percent from the field,
committed 10 turnovers, and had their fewest points in a half this
season.

The deficit was too much to overcome.

''Sometimes when you overexert yourself trying to come back, you
run out of gas and time,'' Odom said. ''We ran out of gas.''

Game notes
Dallas led after the first quarter, 23-12. The 12 points
matched the fewest by a Mavericks opponent in the first quarter
this season. ... The Mavericks have beaten the Clippers by a total
of 37 points in their two meetings this season. ... Clippers forward Wang
Zhizhi was booed when he entered the game in the third quarter.
Wang, who played for the Mavericks from 2000-2002 before signing
with the Clippers as a free agent over the summer, finished with
six points in nine minutes. ... Brand, Miller and Maggette all
fouled out.

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