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Mavericks put emphatic end to Kings' run of good defense

DALLAS (AP) -- Josh Powell sure made a big impression in his bid
to be Dirk Nowitzki's backup this postseason.

Powell scored a season-high 12 points and blocked a shot so hard
that it flew from the middle of the lane to beyond the midcourt
stripe, highlighting a game-breaking stretch in the second quarter
that carried the Dallas Mavericks past the Sacramento Kings 127-101 on Tuesday night.

Although the Mavericks scored their most points this season and
shot a season-best 61.3 percent against a team that hadn't given up
more than 98 points its last 13 games, the buzz afterward was about
Powell and his volleyball-esque swat of a shot by Brad Miller.

"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,"
Powell said with a huge smile. "He pump-faked and then went up
like nobody was there. I was like, 'Let me go get it.' "

Powell said he's never had a block like that -- or even seen one
that went that far.

"It kind of made me smile a little bit, but I had to keep it to
myself," he said, laughing.

Sacramento's Ron Artest got some payback by fouling Powell hard
on a fast break soon after, but that only energized the Mavs and
their fans even more. The crowd gave Powell a standing ovation and
teammate Jason Terry gave him a leaping chest bump.

Powell made both free throws, then grabbed a rebound on defense
and followed with a tip-in. He also nailed a 19-footer before being
replaced by Nowitzki, getting another ovation as he went to the
bench.

Nowitzki scored 29 points, including 14 during a third-quarter
burst that featured three three-point plays and a 3-pointer. Dallas
shot 72.2 percent in the period, cracking 100 points in the final
minute.

Josh Howard added 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists,
the kind of all-around performance the Mavericks sorely missed
while he was out with a strained hamstring. He returned for the
last loss in a 2-5 skid, then looked back to his usual self during
a 24-point win against Denver on Sunday. He was extremely active
again in helping turn this game into a rout by halftime.

"He wanted to play a little bit more tonight, but I told him
we're looking at the big picture," Dallas coach Avery Johnson
said.

The Mavericks are likely locked into the fourth seed after a
three-game losing streak last week dimmed their chances of catching
the Spurs atop the Southwest Division. Dallas has two days off,
then plays in San Antonio on Friday night.

For the Kings, who are trying to hold off New Orleans and Utah
for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference,
this was a horrendous start to a three-game trip against teams
ahead of them in the standings. They'll be in San Antonio on
Wednesday night, then face the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday
night.

"It's a defensive wake-up call," said Bonzi Wells, who led
Sacramento with 30 points and seven rebounds. "You don't want to
start trips like this. And it doesn't get any easier."

Wells typified the Kings' futility by having a dunk attempt
clang off the iron and fly out of bounds on the side of the court
in the air. Mike Bibby provided another example: He went 0-for-5 on
3-pointers, with two air balls and another that missed the iron and
thudded against the backboard, after having made at least four
3-pointers in each of his last three games. He scored 11 points and
Artest had 19.

Powell left North Carolina State after his sophomore season in
2003, but failed to land an NBA job and spent the last two years
playing in Russia and Italy. This was only his 30th game, yet there
could be more coming with Keith Van Horn out indefinitely after
having surgery Tuesday to repair a broken right hand.

Powell has seven games left in the regular season to convince
Johnson that he's the best option for the few minutes Nowitzki
rests in the playoffs. Johnson is considering using Howard, a small
forward, at power forward or going with two centers.

"We have a lot of confidence in him, it's just that he's
young," Johnson said. "He makes little mistakes here and there,
but overall we like his energy. As we move forward, we think he can
be a nice, prototypical NBA power forward."

Game notes
Powell got his money's worth on a first quarter offensive
foul, knocking down Wells and seeing Kenny Thomas trip over Wells.
... The first half was the fourth time this season the Kings have
allowed 63 points in a half. ... Artest was limping for several
minutes after injuring his right foot or ankle during the second
quarter, but looked fine during the second half.

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