Mavs pull away on Nash's 18 third-quarter points

DALLAS (AP) -- After a lethargic first half against the league's worst team, the Dallas Mavericks turned to Steve Nash for a spark.

Nash came back from a one-point first half and scored 18 during
a third-quarter surge as the Mavericks won their third straight,
114-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

"It was a poor first half,'' said Nash, who finished with 21 points and six assists after missing all five of his first-half shots. "We needed to win this game and we needed to be more assertive and take things over.''

Cleveland was in front 54-53 early in the third quarter before Nash took control.

Nash's 22-foot jumper gave the Mavericks the lead for good,
55-54, and he assisted on consecutive 3-pointers by Dirk Nowitzki
later in the quarter as Dallas extended its edge to 75-65.

Nash hit two straight 3-pointers late in the third quarter, the second as time expired to make it 86-73 entering the final quarter.

The Mavericks went on to lead by as many as 25 in the fourth.

"Stevie has just been a monster player for us of late,'' said Mavericks assistant coach Donnie Nelson, who took over head coaching duties along with assistant Del Harris after coach Don Nelson was ejected in the first half. "I think that he sensed with (Don Nelson) being out, he stepped up to the plate and got us rolling.''

Dallas improved its league-best record to 51-16, moving within six victories of matching last season's franchise-best total with 15 games remaining.

Nowitzki paced the Mavericks with 28 points, 10 in the third quarter.

Dallas played the second half without forward Michael Finley, who strained his left hamstring while scoring 21 first-half points. Finley played all 24 minutes of the first half and went 8-of-12 from the field.

Finley missed 13 games last season due to a left hamstring injury.

The Cavaliers, who have the league's worst record (12-54), were led by Zydrunas Ilgauskas' 30 points and 13 rebounds. Smush Parker had 16 points and Carlos Boozer added 12 as Cleveland lost for the 14th time in its last 16.

"We played well in the first half,'' Ilgauskas said. "But then
they started making their shots and we couldn't match that. We just
didn't have the firepower.''

Cleveland's Ricky Davis had 11 points and matched a career high
with 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double.

Davis received an undisclosed fine from the Cavs for his attempt
to record his first career triple-double in Cleveland's 122-95
victory at Utah. Davis intentionally missed a shot at the Utah
basket, hoping the official scorer would credit him with a rebound
off the miss. But league rules stipulate that a player commits a
violation when he attempts a shot at the wrong basket, and Davis
finished with nine rebounds along with 28 points and 12 assists.

Don Nelson was ejected in the second quarter after coming onto
the court to argue with the officiating crew. Nelson collected two
quick technicals and was tossed for the fourth time this season.

The Mavericks were uninspired in the first half, seemingly going through a letdown following Sunday's overtime victory over Western Conference rival Sacramento.

"The energy wasn't there in the first half,'' Nowitzki said.
"That's pretty normal after a big, emotional win on Sunday. The
second half, we made it look at little more easy.''

Game notes
Dallas has won five in a row over Cleveland. ...Cavaliers F
Darius Miles started despite a left shoulder strain. His status was
a game time decision. ...Dallas F Adrian Griffin missed wide-open
layups on consecutive possessions in the second quarter.
...Ilgauskas had his 17th double-double of the season. ...Dallas
set a franchise record with its 24th victory against the Eastern
Conference. ...Dallas is 7-1 when Nowitzki, Nash and Finley all
score at least 20 points. ...The Mavericks are 40-4 when they hold
the opposition under 100 points.


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