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Dampier returns from injury, scores 16 in victory

DALLAS (AP) -- In Avery Johnson's 10th game as coach of the
Dallas Mavericks, he finally got a chance to use his likely playoff
rotation. He can only hope it works out as well in the postseason.

Center Erick Dampier scored 16 points in his return to the
starting lineup and sixth man Jerry Stackhouse added 17, helping
the Mavericks beat the Orlando Magic 114-105 Tuesday night to
secure their fifth straight 50-win season.

"It looked good getting everybody back in the flow of things
and having Damp clogging up the middle," Stackhouse said.

The news wasn't all good for Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki needs an MRI
on Wednesday to make sure his right knee is OK after being undercut
by Orlando's Andre Barrett while going for a rebound in the closing
minutes. Nowitzki also left the game briefly in the third quarter
with pain in his right ankle, but still finished with 21 points and
nine rebounds.

"The knee felt weird," Nowitzki said.

Dampier and Stackhouse were both on the injured list when
Johnson replaced Don Nelson on March 19. They returned last week,
but Johnson wanted to be careful with Dampier's return from a
stress fracture in his right foot.

Dampier proved he can jump just fine with two powerful dunks in
the opening minutes, then showed he can run, too, by scoring 10
points in the third quarter, mostly on aggressive drives to the
basket. He finished 5-of-6 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line
with five rebounds and three blocks in 29 minutes -- about five more
than Johnson planned.

"I think the guys are looking for me now," Dampier said. "We
went through a stretch of 20 games where they didn't even play with
me, so I just need to try to get myself back into the rhythm of the
game."

Dampier's early slams came while Dallas was making nine of its
first 10 shots, building a comfortable lead that was hardly
challenged. The runaway victory followed a 20-point loss at
Cleveland and was a nice way for the once-woebegon Mavs to hit 50
wins. Until this stretch, they had just two in the franchise's
first 20 years.

While Johnson called that milestone satisfying and "a nice
accomplishment," he continues to show how serious he is about
defending and being focused the entire game. He called a 20-second
timeout 58 seconds into the third quarter and didn't say a word in
the huddle, and called time again in the last two minutes to tell
the players they weren't trying hard enough.

"I'm trying to get some of our young guys to grow," he said.
"Sometimes it's like pulling teeth."

The Magic were without Grant Hill (sore left shin) for a second
straight game. Although DeShawn Stevenson made up for it by scoring
a career-high 29 points, Orlando fell 1½ games behind Philadelphia
for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and a
half-game behind New Jersey.

"I'd rather have five points and win," Stevenson said. "We're
just trying to get to the playoffs."

The Magic have eight games left, seven against teams ahead of
them in the standings.

"We're not giving up," said Orlando guard Steve Francis, who
had 16 points and 11 assists. "Tonight, they just played better.
They got more shots than we did and made more."

The Magic had little luck making this game close. Even when they
opened the second half by hitting 14 of their first 16 shots, the
Mavericks countered by making 12 of 14.

Jason Terry scored 18 and had 13 assists for Dallas, Josh Howard
had 15 points and seven rebounds and Michael Finley scored 10. No
starter played more than Finley's 36 minutes, which should help
keep them fresh for Thursday night's game against the San Antonio
Spurs.

Stevenson was 13-of-23, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers, while
upping his career-best by five. Jameer Nelson added 18 points off
the bench and Tony Battie had 14 points and nine rebounds.

Game notes
This was the last game against the opposite conference for
both teams. Dallas went 23-7 against the East and Orlando went
15-15 against the West. ... The teams hadn't met since Nov. 9. Both
have changed coaches since then. ... Mavs coach Avery Johnson
improved to 8-2 since replacing Don Nelson, and has agreed to a
four-year contract extension that's expected to be finalized this
week. ... Grant Hill's father, former NFL star Calvin Hill, was in
the stands. The elder Hill works for the Dallas Cowboys.

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