Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mavs ease past Sonics

In his two decades in the league, Avery Johnson can’t remember a season like this one. Those 82 games that make up the regular season have taken on an added meaning in a campaign unlike any other.

“I’ve never seen the playoffs start a month before the playoffs and that’s pretty exciting,” he said.

Tuesday night, however, probably didn’t qualify. The Mavericks needed a win, and they got one by disposing of rebuilding Seattle 99-83, but the game didn’t have that sizzle. The Sonics can’t be confused with the Spurs, Lakers, Suns or the myriad of Western Conference contenders.

Something appeared to be missing on the floor and in the air. It was as if the Mavs and the 20,228 fans at American Airlines Center picked their spots to come alive. The victory didn’t garner many style points, but it was the fourth in the last five games and kept the Mavs (49-29) in solid possession of seventh in the West.

Jason Terry and Josh Howard combined to score 39 to pace the Mavs, who beat Seattle for the 13th consecutive time. The power forward combo of Dirk Nowitzki and Brandon Bass racked up 24, with 13 coming from the MVP’s backup.

The Kevin Durant-led Sonics came in on a high, having delivered a stunning blow to Denver’s playoff push with Sunday’s 151-147 double-OT victory. Seattle hung tough for three quarters, making runs behind the rookie from Texas and Earl Watson to stay within striking distance.

Terry and Nowitzki led the fourth-quarter push that safely tucked the win away, as the Mavs turned a seven-point edge after the third into as much as a 20-point budge. Johnson was able to empty his bench and rest his starters in preparation for Utah’s visit Thursday.

The Mavs realize they can’t sleepwalk at this point of the season, regardless of opponent. It should be easier, however, to inject a spark back into the team and building with the Northwest Division-leading Jazz on tap.

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