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Mavericks shrug off Nowitzki injury to roll past Sonics

SEATTLE (AP) -- Erick Dampier watched All-Star forward Dirk
Nowitzki crumple to the court, then responded with the type of
performance Dallas coach Avery Johnson wants and expects.

Meanwhile, the injuries keep piling up for the slumping
SuperSonics.

With the Mavericks missing Nowitzki for most of the night,
Dampier matched a season high with 22 points and grabbed a
season-best 16 rebounds in Dallas' 103-95 win over Seattle on
Wednesday.

Dampier's domination inside was needed after Nowitzki sprained
his left ankle late in the first quarter and had to be carried to
the locker room after scoring only six points.

"We challenged [Dampier] at half to step up and he did,"
Johnson said. "Then we just had efforts from everybody."

Nowitzki went down with 2:05 left in the first. Seattle's Chris
Wilcox jumped for the rebound of a missed free throw by Jerry
Stackhouse and was bumped by DeSagana Diop of the Mavericks. Wilcox
fell to the ground, his legs spreading and his left foot hitting
Nowitzki just above his left foot, causing his ankle to roll.


"It was kind of a freaky play," Nowitzki said afterward. "The dude [Wilcox] kind of lost balance in the air, and I was trying to run back. And he kicked right in my ankle, and I rolled it pretty good."

Nowitzki was down on the floor for a few minutes, and could not put weight on the leg, but X-rays
were negative. He was to be re-examined in Dallas, and Johnson said
Nowitzki was day-to-day.

"Whenever this happens, at first it scares you, but I've done
this before," Nowitzki said. "The docs have told me it's just a
sprain and that I'll be OK."

Down the hallway, Seattle was lamenting yet another major
injury. Rashard Lewis injured a tendon on the back of his right
hand after his fingers got caught in the net while he was trying to
block Dampier's shot in the opening minute of the game.

Lewis immediately ran to the locker room and had X-rays taken.
He was to be re-examined on Thursday.

Seattle was already without leading scorer Ray Allen, who missed
his ninth straight game with a right ankle injury. Adding another
name to the injury list, Wilcox missed the final 9:39 of the fourth
quarter after taking an elbow to the jaw and needing stitches in
his lip.

"I couldn't be prouder," Seattle coach Bob Hill said. "They
fought tooth and nail for a long time. We got great effort from
everyone who stepped on the floor."

But effort couldn't carry the Sonics, who wore down in the
second half thanks to stingy defense by the Mavericks. Dallas won
its fifth straight, holding Seattle to only 39 points and 36
percent shooting in the final 24 minutes. Jason Terry added 17
points as five Mavericks finished in double figures.

Dallas also outscored Seattle 29-7 at the free-throw line.
Dampier made eight of nine free throws and grabbed nine offensive
rebounds

"I think everyone took the defensive challenge to go out in the
second half and get the job done," he said.

Luke Ridnour led Seattle with 21 points before fouling out.
Reserve guard Earl Watson and Wilcox each scored 18, but Seattle
lost its sixth straight overall and had a four-game home winning
streak snapped. It's the fourth time in the last five seasons the
Sonics have lost six in a row at one point.

After trailing by 11 at halftime, the Mavericks erased most of
the deficit by the end of the third. Dallas went on a 12-0 run,
including a four-point possession that included a three-point play
from Dampier and a technical foul free throw from Terry after Hill
argued with officials.

Devean George's 3-pointer with 2:46 left in the quarter gave
Dallas its first lead since 12-10. Seattle retook the lead at the
end of the third, but Dallas started the fourth on a 9-4 spurt and
never trailed again. The Mavericks closed out the struggling Sonics
with a 10-0 run as Seattle went more than three minutes without
scoring.

"We really did a good job of putting defensive pressure on
them," Stackhouse said. "We made them take bad shots and they got
a little tighter as the game went on."

Josh Howard added 15 points for Dallas, George finished with 13
off the bench and Devin Harris scored 13.

Game notes
Dallas got G Anthony Johnson back after he missed the
previous three games with a sprained right ankle. Johnson scored
two points in five minutes. ... Wednesday was the 40th anniversary
of Seattle being granted an NBA franchise.