Mavs maintain two-game lead over Spurs


DALLAS (AP) -- In order to hold off the onrushing San Antonio
Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks needed to shut down Jamal Mashburn and
the New Orleans Hornets.

Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and 11 rebounds and Steve Nash added
17 points as the Mavericks moved within a game of matching the most
wins in franchise history with a 95-86 victory over the Hornets on
Tuesday night.

The Mavericks, a league-best 56-18 with eight games left,
maintained their two-game lead over the Spurs in the Midwest
Division. Those teams will meet in San Antonio on April 16 in
Dallas' final game of the regular season. San Antonio holds a 2-1
lead in the season series and currently has league's longest
current winning streak -- six games.

"I'd rather be up five or six games, but we're not," Nowitzki
said. "We have to let it all out there and put the pedal to the
metal for the last eight games."

Dallas, the league leader in 3-pointers made and attempted, got
the easy win despite going 1-for-5 from behind the arc. The
Mavericks had their season low for 3-point tries and matched their
fewest 3-pointers made this season.

Eduardo Najera and Raef Lafrentz added 11 points each for

Baron Davis scored 18 points, George Lynch had a season-high 13
and Jerome Moiso contributed 12 points and a season-high 11
rebounds for the Hornets, who've lost four of their last five.

Dallas went extensively with zone defenses in the second half
and limited Mashburn, the Hornets' leading scorer, to 10 points on
4-for-13 shooting.

"When they play that zone, it's tough," said Mashburn, who was
held to eight points in the teams' other meeting on Dec. 26.
"Everywhere I went, someone was there."

Nowitzki and Nash carried the Mavericks in the third quarter,
which ended with Dallas in front, 75-62. Nowitzki had 11 points in
the quarter and Nash added six to prevent the Hornets from getting
any closer than five.

"It was like pulling teeth, but I'd look up and we'd have
leads," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "I don't think we were
playing that well but I guess they can make you look that way.
We'll take it."

Dallas went on to lead by as many as 21 points in the fourth
quarter, cruising to its fifth victory in six games.

"Overall we did a good job tonight," Nash said. "We let them
get close a couple of times but we buckled down."

Mavericks swingman Michael Finley, the team's second leading
scorer at 19.7, missed his seventh straight game due to a strained
left hamstring. Finley is expected to practice on Wednesday and his
availability for Thursday night's home game against the Lakers will
depend on how the sore hamstring responds.

Dallas held a 52-46 halftime lead behind Nowitzki's 17 points.

Game notes
The Mavericks honored G Avery Johnson in pre-game
ceremonies for playing in his 1,000th game. Johnson reached the
milestone Friday night at Portland. Johnson was presented the
Portland game ball by Nelson and owner Mark Cuban. ... Hornets G
David Wesley missed his seventh straight game because of a bruised
left foot. ... The Charlotte-New Orleans franchise has lost seven
straight to the Mavericks. ...Davis had only seven points over the
final three quarters. ...The Mavericks had 14 steals, their most
since Jan. 21. Dallas is 19-3 when it has 10 or more steals.