Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 11/12

Game 1: Saturday, November 12th
Game 2: Saturday, December 3rd
Game 3: Saturday, December 31st
Game 4: Saturday, April 8th

Hornets 77

(37-39, 14-24 away)

Mavericks 101

(58-19, 33-6 home)

    Coverage: COX

    7:30 PM ET, April 8, 2006

    American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

    1 2 3 4 T
    NO 19 20 21 1777
    DAL 29 27 22 23101

    Top Performers

    NO: R. Butler 14 Pts, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Dal: D. Nowitzki 20 Pts, 8 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    Hornets' playoff hopes take beating from Mavericks

    DALLAS (AP) -- In one week, the Dallas Mavericks have gone from thinking they had to settle for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference to making a strong bid for the top spot.

    With Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard again leading the way, Dallas followed a race-changing victory in San Antonio with a thorough 101-77 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.

    "It's always rough after an emotional win, but we approached the game like a must-win situation," said Nowitzki, who had 20 points and eight rebounds without playing the fourth quarter. "We made up a game on San Antonio last night, we didn't want to hand it right back."

    Howard added 19 points and eight rebounds and joined Nowitzki on the bench for the final period as the Mavericks (58-19) moved within a half-game of the Spurs (58-18) for the No. 1 seed and the lead in the Southwest Division.

    This victory has added significance because it sealed Dallas' mark against Southwest Division foes at 13-3 -- and division record could be the deciding factor if the teams end up tied. San Antonio is 11-3 in division play with games left Sunday at home against Memphis and at Houston in the finale.

    Should the Spurs match the Mavs in that category yet still wind up tied in the overall standings, San Antonio has a strong three-game advantage in the next tiebreaker, conference record.

    It was hard to imagine such intricate details would even be considered just last week, when Dallas was coming out of a three-game losing skid. But the Mavericks have bounced back by winning four straight, and the Spurs have lost two straight. Dallas' victory over San Antonio was a big swing game because it knotted the season series at 2-2, knocking out the first tiebreaker.

    "After we lost three straight, we refocused defensively," Nowitzki said. "That's something we take pride in. We've gone back in the last couple of games to things we do best."

    Carrying over the energy and enthusiasm from the previous night, Dallas made its first four shots and was up by 12 before the first quarter ended. The Mavs were ahead by 20 before halftime and the Hornets never got closer than 15 the rest of the way en route to their 17th straight loss to Dallas. New Orleans (37-39) slipped to 2½ games behind Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are tied for the final two playoff spots.

    "They beat us from start to finish," said Hornets guard Chris Paul, who had nine points after averaging 22.3 in three previous games against Dallas. "They came out aggressive and we were back on our heels."

    The Mavericks outrebounded New Orleans 48-30, despite no player logging more than 31 minutes. Four reserves got more than 19, with two more playing half the final period.

    "We didn't want to let down after last night," said Dallas' Jerry Stackhouse, who had nine points and tied his season high with eight assists. "We got them on their heels early and kept it up."

    Jason Terry scored 19 points for the Mavericks and Marquis Daniels had 13.

    Rasual Butler led the Hornets with 14 points and P.J. Brown, who was questionable because of a sprained left ankle, didn't start but scored 12.

    Hornets coach Byron Scott said his team was "terrible."

    "We played like the game did not mean a thing," Scott said. "That was everybody, obviously, but as a team, collectively, we were awful. Simple as that."

    Game notes

    Dallas' win streak over the Hornets ties San Antonio's 17-game run over Boston for the longest active stretch in the NBA. ... The league rejected the Mavs' request for a roster exemption that would've allowed them to carry 16 players because of injuries. ... Scott is 0-15 against Dallas, including his time running the New Jersey Nets. As a player with the Los Angeles Lakers, Scott had no trouble beating the Mavericks, especially in the playoffs. ... Mavs G Adrian Griffin (hamstring) will practice Sunday in hopes of returning to the starting lineup Monday. Johnson said G Devin Harris (left quadriceps) is "making progress," and is likely to play the last two regular-season games, perhaps even three. ... Howard fell a point shy of his fourth straight 20-point game.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 77 101
    FGM-FGA 32-72 (.444) 39-79 (.494)
    3PM-3PA 1-4 (.250) 7-14 (.500)
    FTM-FTA 12-16 (.750) 16-21 (.762)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-30 15-48
    Assists 12 24
    Turnovers 18 16
    Steals 3 8
    Blocks 4 5
    Fast Break Points 2 11
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 17 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 1 29

    Top Performers

    No/oklahoma City
    Rasual Butler Butler
    Points: 14
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 1
    Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
    Points: 20
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1