Nowitzki's 37 points helps Mavs end three-game skid

DALLAS (AP) -- For months, it's been a given that the Dallas
Mavericks would break the team record for victories. The question was by
how much.

The answer: At least one and no more than three.

Dirk Nowitzki had 37 points and 12 rebounds and Steve Nash added
21 points and 10 assists as the Mavericks beat Golden State 117-108
Saturday night to finally get their team-record 58th victory.

''Sure, it's an accomplishment, but it's kind of
anticlimactic,'' Nash said. ''It's a little disappointing the way
we're playing.''

Dallas is 7-6 since losing second-leading scorer Michael Finley
to a knee injury. The Mavs had dropped three in a row and four of
five, costing them their season-long grip on the NBA's best record.

''Our energy hasn't been there and we've been struggling, so
this is a big win for us,'' Nowitzki said. ''We haven't played well
in a month. We haven't competed at a high level, and that's what
the playoffs are all about.''

Antawn Jamison had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Golden State,
which lost its fifth in seven games. This one clinched a ninth
consecutive losing season. It also was the Warriors' 17th consecutive defeat against Dallas.

''We played these guys well all year,'' Jamison said. ''It's
just the little things here and there that beat us.''

While the Mavs still have a chance to reach 60 victories, they'll
need help to win the Midwest Division.

San Antonio must lose Sunday at Phoenix and Monday at Utah, and
Dallas must beat Seattle at home Monday night for the division to
come down to a Mavs-Spurs showdown in the season finale.

Any San Antonio victory or Dallas defeat would lock the Mavericks into
the third seed. That would mean opening the postseason against the
sixth seed, which is a tight battle between Minnesota, Portland and
the Los Angeles Lakers.

''We're trying to get some rhythm going into the playoffs,''
forward Eduardo Najera said. ''We've got to stay positive, be sharp
and focused.''

Finley was eligible to come off the injured list Saturday, but
didn't. Coach Don Nelson said he might be ready Monday.

Without Finley, Nelson avoided a season-worst fourth consecutive defeat by playing Nash for 36 minutes and Nowitzki 40. Nowitzki
played the entire fourth quarter and paid the price -- Gilbert
Arenas was called for a flagrant foul with 3:52 left for smacking
Nowitzki hard enough to leave a scab on the bridge of his nose.

''He was trying to go for the ball and missed,'' Nowitzki said.
''He hit me in the face, but it's not bad.''

Jamison had 20 of his points in the first half as the Warriors
kept things close. They tied it at 62 early in the third quarter,
then Nash and Nowitzki scored all of Dallas' points in a 12-2 run
that broke the game open.

The Mavericks' lead peaked at 16, 113-97, but the Warriors
scored nine in a row in the closing minutes to close to seven.
Then Nash hit a pair of free throws with 43.5 seconds left to seal
the victory -- and the record.

''In 25 years, I've never had a team that has done better with
the talent we have,'' Nelson said. ''I am so proud of them.''

Nick Van Exel had 17 points and seven assists for the Mavs. Raef
LaFrentz had 12 points and Shawn Bradley had 10; the 7-foot centers
started together for just the fifth time.

Dallas was 32-for-34 on foul shots, with Nowitzki making
14 of 15. He was 10-for-22 from the field and was three
points short of tying his career high.

For the Warriors, rookie Mike Dunleavy -- playing with his
father, former NBA coach Mike Dunleavey, in the stands -- tied his
season high with 17 points. Jason Richardson also had 17. Arenas
had five points and eight assists, and missed the third quarter
with a bruised knee.

Jamison was only 2-for-8 in the second half.

''I had the same looks, but they just didn't go in,'' Jamison
said. ''It wasn't anything Dallas did to me. A couple calls didn't
go our way and there were a couple of stretches when we couldn't
throw it in the ocean.''

Game notes
Both teams scored at least 100 points in all four meetings
this season, which only makes sense considering they're the
league's two highest-scoring teams. Dallas came in averaging 102.8;
Golden State 102.1. ... When Golden State's 5-foot-5 Earl Boykins
got his fourth block of the season when he rejected a first-quarter
shot by Najera. ... Walt Williams returned from the injured list
for Dallas, while Evan Eschmeyer went on it.


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