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Mavs let lead shrink again

1/17/2004

DENVER (AP) -- Somewhat out of sync earlier in the game, Michael
Finley gathered himself in the closing minutes.

Finley scored five points in the final 1:26, and the Dallas
Mavericks held on to beat the Denver Nuggets 91-88 on Friday night.

Finley hit a clutch 3-pointer with 1:26 left for an 89-84 lead.
Then, after the Nuggets reduced the lead to one point, he sank two
free throws with 5.7 seconds to go.

"Finley made the big five points," Dallas coach Don Nelson
said. "He really struggled before that. He didn't look like he had
a good rhythm tonight."

Finley said he was primed for the big finish.

"When my number was called, I was ready to step up and knock
down the big shots," he said. "I know what I'm capable of
doing."

Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points for Dallas, which led by eight
points with 4:56 remaining before seeing the margin reduced to one.

Andre Miller scored 28, including eight straight Denver points
to cut the lead to 89-88, but Finley accounted for the final margin
with his two free throws.

Finley and Antawn Jamison each had 16 points for the Mavericks,
who won their third straight game, and Antoine Walker had 13 points
and 10 rebounds.

Rodney White added 14 points for Denver, which has lost three of
its last four games. Nene had 12 points, and Carmelo Anthony had 11
points and 12 rebounds.

Nowitzki's two free throws made it 86-78 with 4:56 left, but
Miller scored four of the next six Denver points, making it 86-84.

Finley's 3-pointer gave Dallas a five-point lead.

Miller's driving layup and two subsequent free throws cut the
lead to 89-88 with 37 seconds left.

Nowitzki was called for an offensive foul, but Denver's Earl
Boykins missed a 3-pointer.

Boykins then fouled Finley, who made two free throws.

Anthony was fouled with 3 seconds left. He missed the first free
throw and intentionally missed the second. Denver got the ball back
and inbounded with 0.9 seconds left, but White's desperation shot
was way short.

"Our effort was really good," Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
"There were just a lot of little things throughout the course of
the game that prevented us from having a big win tonight.

"We were 9-for-17 from the foul line. We had a couple of
defensive breakdowns. A couple of times we got caught not sprinting
back defensively in transition. And we had some open looks that we
didn't knock down."

Dallas point guard Steve Nash didn't play after straining his
hip in the first quarter.

"It may be smart to take a couple of days off now instead of
trying to fight through it and then being out a couple of weeks or
maybe longer," Nash said. "I'd like to say that I'll feel better
by Tuesday."

Despite shooting 65 percent in the first quarter, Dallas led
only 28-27. Denver used a 10-2 run to open a 16-10 lead, but the
Mavericks scored six straight points late in the period, including
Jamison's slam dunk on a fastbreak.

The Mavericks shot only 19 percent in the second quarter but
made 11 of 14 free throws and managed a 47-47 tie at halftime.

White scored three straight baskets early in the quarter as
Denver built a four-point lead. Danny Fortson's three-point play
capped his own 6-0 flurry, putting Dallas ahead 47-42 with 2:45
left in the half. Nene's driving layup and Miller's fast-break
layup helped the Nuggets close the deficit.

Dallas built an eight-point lead early in the third quarter, but
Nene, Miller and White helped the Nuggets trim the deficit. The
Mavs led 71-67 entering the final period.

Game notes
Miller also had 10 assists. ... The Mavericks signed center
Mamadou N'diaye to his second 10-day contract. ... Dallas beat
Denver 115-101 in Dallas on Nov. 22. Denver prevailed 113-103 at
home on Nov. 28, ending a nine-game losing streak to the Mavs. ...
Walker had triple-doubles in the two previous games.