Magic hand slumping Mavs third straight loss

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Orlando coach Brian Hill was happy to see
the Magic beat one of the NBA's elite teams.

Jameer Nelson scored 27 points and Hedo Turkoglu added 25 to
help the Magic beat Dallas 108-99 on Friday night and hand the
Mavericks their third straight loss.

"This was a big step for us," Hill said. "I think we're
becoming a basketball team rather than a collection of individuals.
To me it's very rewarding to see how, at this stage of the season,
how hard these guys are playing."

The Mavericks fell another half-game behind San Antonio in the
playoff chase to clinch the Southwest Division, putting them 2½
games back with nine left to play. The teams are battling for the
West's best record, but since they are both in the same division
the second place finisher will get the No. 4 seed when the playoffs
start in three weeks. The top three seeds go to division winners.

Dallas has now lost five of last seven games, while Orlando has
won seven in a row at home.

"We played a short stretch there in the fourth quarter a little
bit," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "But other than that we
didn't play well at all again tonight, and that's what concerns me.

"They had a lot of energy and they were playing loose. And
their point guards destroyed us. It's that simple."

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 38 points and 15 rebounds.
Jason Terry scored 23 points and Jerry Stackhouse added 14. Josh
Howard started his first game after missing the last nine with a
strained hamstring, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds.

Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for

The Magic led 87-70 after three quarters, but Dallas opened the
fourth with a 15-4 run to close the gap to 91-85 with 6:42 left.

Orlando didn't score a field goal for the first 5:30 of the
fourth quarter after shooting 72 percent from the field in the
third. However, two back-to-back buckets from Turkoglu and DeShawn
Stevenson put them up by 10 with 5:49 left.

The Mavericks whittled the lead to five points with Terry's
3-pointer with 4:23 left, but could only manage three points in the
next three minutes of play.

Dwight Howard hit two free throws with 1:19 to go, putting
Orlando up 103-95. Orlando hit 13-of-15 from the free throw line in
the fourth period.

"Our coach said before the game, we got three good teams coming
up in Miami, Dallas and San Antonio. We want to go out and try to
beat all three teams. We started off tonight with a good win,"
Dwight Howard said.

The Magic took a 56-44 lead into halftime after starting the
second quarter with a 12-2 run. Dallas went nearly five minutes
without a point in the period. Nowitzki was the only offensive
threat, scoring 11 of the Mavericks' 17 points that quarter.

Game notes
DeSagana Diop fouled out with 1:19 left. He had three
points and four rebounds. ... The Magic honored those in the
military by distributing 2,500 tickets for Friday's "Seats for
Soldiers" event. ... G/F Adrian Griffin (strained right hamstring)
and G Devin Harris (strained left quadriceps) were inactive for
Dallas. ... Dallas coach Avery Johnson, Stackhouse and Stevenson
were all called for technical fouls. ... Mavericks center DJ Mbenga
sat out Friday's game after being suspended one game without pay by
the NBA for committing a flagrant foul against Cleveland's LeBron


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