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Nowitzki, Nash drive Dallas to victory

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash made quite an
offensive tandem for the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.

Nowitzki had 34 points and 15 rebounds and Nash scored seven of
his 16 points in the final 4:02, leading the Mavericks to a 101-88
victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"I tried to be aggressive early. And when a couple of shots go
in, your confidence starts to get bigger," Nowitzki said. "After
that, for a while, it felt like everything was going in. I had the
opposite kind of game last night at Phoenix, and I couldn't find my
shooting rhythm. That's the NBA."

Nash also had 11 assists for the Mavericks, who trail the
fourth-place Lakers by one game in the Western Conference
standings. Michael Finley, who scored a season-high 38 points
against the Clippers on Dec. 10 and equaled it against the Suns,
had 14 points.

Quentin Richardson had 32 points and 11 rebounds and Corey
Maggette had 25 points for the Clippers, who have dropped 19 of
their last 23 meetings with the Mavericks despite beating them the
first two times they played them this season. Elton Brand was held
to a season-low five points in 42 minutes,

Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy used his 21st different starting
lineup, with Brand shifting from power forward to center for the
first time this season, Bobby Simmons playing in Brand's spot and
Keyon Dooling replacing the injured Marko Jaric at point guard.

But it hardly mattered as the Clippers fell a season-worst 14
games under .500 following their fourth straight loss and eighth in
nine games. Simmons and Dooling each shot 1-for-6 over the first
three quarters. Brand shot 2-for-11 from the field.

"I got the jump ball, and after that it was all downhill,"
said Brand, who was held to eight points and one rebound over 21
minutes in a 116-92 loss on Feb. 24 at Dallas.

"In Dallas, we got blown out and I didn't play the fourth
quarter, so I don't count that," Brand said. "The game before
that, I had 25 points and 20 rebounds against that same defense.
But tonight I have to credit them. They had great defense, greats
traps, and they were doubling every time. So I just tried to hit
the open man."

Brand entered the game averaging a team-high 20.4 points.

"We're not the most physical team in the league and we really
struggling with dominating kinds of players, so we were just trying
to get keep the ball out of his hands and make other guys take
shots," Nowitzki said. "Maggette and Richardson got hot for a
while, but it's still better for them to shoot from the outside
than to beat us inside. That's why we won the game."

Trailing 75-65 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Clippers
scored six of their next seven baskets from behind the 3-point line
-- three of them by Richardson in a frantic 68-second span to narrow
the gap to 88-85 with 4:19 to play. But they never got closer.

Nash hit two free throws, then set up a driving layup by Eduardo
Najera as the Mavericks closed out the game with a 13-3 run.

The Clippers scored nine straight points to slice a 14-point
deficit to 64-59 with 5:06 left in the third quarter. Chris Wilcox
capped the run with a layup off an alley-oop feed from Richardson,
followed by a slam dunk, but left the game after straining his left
Achilles' tendon early in the fourth.

Nowitzki, who averaged just 16 points in his three previous
games against the Clippers this season, paced Dallas to a 52-43
halftime lead with 21 points and nine rebounds. The Mavericks
opened the second quarter with a 12-3 run that increased their
five-point lead to 41-27 with 6:27 left in the half. Reserve center
Shawn Bradley capped the rally with a short hook shot and a
tip-in.

Game notes
The Clippers tied a franchise record for one quarter with
their six 3-pointers in the fourth. ... The Mavericks had 26
assists, improving to 22-1 when they record at least 25. They are
17-2 when Nowitzki scored at least 25 points. ... The Clippers, who
have 16 games remaining, are two losses away from their 11th
consecutive losing season. The longest such streak in NBA history
is 15 straight -- a drought the Sacramento Kings franchise began in
1984 when the team was based in Kansas City. ... Rookie Josh Howard
did not play for the Mavericks after getting a cut on his lower lip
in Saturday night's game that required nine stitches. ... Finley,
who turned 31 on March 6, is the only player in his 30s among the
league top 14 players in minutes.

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