Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trip opens on sour note in Portland

PORTLAND – Life on the road hasn’t been kind to the Mavericks. One the league’s better road teams in recent seasons – the Mavs had only one losing record away from home in the previous seven years – struggled to find consistency outside of Dallas.

The final trip of the regular season didn’t begin with much promise Saturday night at the Rose Garden. The Trail Blazers, a day removed from a shellacking at Sacramento, weren’t the same squad with the Mavs in town. The Portland upstarts were at their youthful best and after Jason Terry’s 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out, the Blazers claimed a 108-105 victory.

“We just couldn’t finish,” Avery Johnson said.

The Mavs (50-30) were on their heels for most of the first half and needed a fourth-quarter rally to give themselves a chance against a team long since removed from playoff contention. Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 to lead five in double figures, but it wasn’t enough on the opening night of a back-to-back.

Fill-in starter Eddie Jones scored 16 and Brandon Bass added 12 off the bench for the Mavs, who finish the trek Sunday with possibly the last Sonics game in Seattle. Beating the Sonics will lock up the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. The Mavs can’t get to sixth.

Dallas fell to 17-23 away from home. The only previous losing record during the current eight-year playoff run occurred in 2003-04 (16-25). The Mavs traveled to the Pacific Northwest after clinching a playoff spot with Thursday’s dramatic win over Utah. Johnson uttered “letdown” when discussing his team’s mind set.

“You try to fight against it,” he said. “We don’t want to go into the playoffs playing like we did in the first quarter tonight. We won’t beat anybody.”

Read the rest of this story with more game coverage at

Saying goodbye to Seattle

Sunday’s visit to Seattle will be emotional for Jason Terry. The Emerald City native can’t believe the Sonics are on the verge of leaving his hometown for Oklahoma City.

“I’m going to take something back with me,” he said. “Whether it’s part of the floor or a seat cushion or something from the locker room, I’ll get something to remember it.”

Terry grew up rooting for the Sonics and used get into the old Seattle Coliseum as a kid with the help of his mom. The Terry clan will be well represented at Key Arena.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan is forever linked to the Sonics. He spent his entire playing career in Seattle and began his coaching career there.

“It’s still hard to believe that it’s looking more and more like that team is leaving,” McMillan said. “That team is pretty much gone.”

As for his retired number, he joked: “I don’t know where my jersey is going to be. They may just take it down.”

Josh Howard out tonight at Portland

Josh Howard is out tonight nursing a sore knee and should see action tomorrow night at Seattle. Howard said he’s feeling fine, but Avery Johnson is taking the cautious approach since the small forward isn’t 100 percent.

Jerry Stackhouse won’t suit up on this trip. The plan now is for Stackhouse to play in the regular season finale against New Orleans at home. Stackhouse wanted to play against the Sonics, but it was decided that another couple days of rest, plus a hard practice Tuesday, would be the best course.

“He’s getting in extra work and the target is for him to keep working out these next two days,” Avery Johnson said. “We’ll give him a day off on Monday, he’ll have a hard practice on Tuesday and play in the game on Wednesday.”

Though he wanted to play tomorrow, Stackhouse doesn’t view sitting out both games as a setback.

“I wanted to get back on the court and be there, if you know what I mean,” he said. “That’s the main thing. I passed the biggest hurdle by getting out there. To feel the basketball again [in practice] is a great feeling. I’ll play in the last game of the season.”

In addition to Howard and Stackhouse, JJ Barea is inactive tonight.

Portland still dangerous

Though a winning record remains in reach for Portland, the talk from Blazers in the paper out here suggest they’re ready for summer vacation. A strong finish doesn’t seem to mean much, even after all the progress the franchise has made this season.

Avery Johnson isn’t buying that line.

“We’re not believing that because the last time they played at home, we thought they played against one of the top teams in the Western Conference and beat them,” he said. “For us we’re not looking at that. They beat the Lakers here at home, they had a rough night last night [at Sacramento], but they’re very capable.

“For us we need to play it out because we know once the season ends on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday we’ll be going somewhere to start our games and we’ve got to be ready.”

Nowitzki to play it out

Dirk Nowitzki talked with Avery Johnson yesterday about taking one game off before the end of the regular season. The Mavs play tonight here in Portland, tomorrow at Seattle and finish up at home with New Orleans.

They decided it’s best for Nowitzki to keep playing. Johnson will watch his minutes. The plan for the Pacific Northwest is to play Nowitzki sparingly in one of these two games.

“Even if I didn’t play out here, I don’t think my ankle would be 100 percent,” Nowitzki said today after shootaround. “I’d rather keep my rhythm, pop a couple of Advils before the game and play.”

In other injury news, Jerry Stackhouse (stained groin) still won’t play tonight and Josh Howard (bruised right knee) is a game-time decision.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Confidence on the rebound

Win one of those games and it’s progress. Win two and seeds of confidence take root. Keep winning and a habit starts to take shape.

The Mavericks, many of them anyway, are quite familiar with the feeling. A team doesn’t win that many big games over the last few years without knowing how to handle pressure-packed moments against the NBA’s best.

Not everyone in this version of the Mavs had that catalogue to draw from, but triumphs over Golden State, Phoenix and Utah could be the start of a new collection. The latest victory, courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki’s buzzer beater, nailed down a Western Conference playoff spot in Game No. 79.

“That’s what won us basically 70 games last year, having that confidence down the stretch no matter what happens,” Nowitzki said before leaving for Portland on the last road trip of the regular season. “We’re going to get that big stop, we’re going to score a big basket, no matter who scores it, but we’re going to get it from somewhere, and we’re going to win the game.

“Hopefully, we can have that same confidence and build it more over the last three games, and it should be a fun playoff run. In the West, in the first round, whoever you’re going to face is going to be a tough series, so it should be fun for everybody involved. Not only the players, but the fans and everybody.”

Read the rest of the notebook and get a Portand preview at

Injury updates on Stack, Josh and Dirk

Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Josh Howard didn’t practice today, though they did some shooting. Howard banged his right knee again Thursday against Utah – he first hurt it Sunday at Phoenix running into Shaquille O’Neal.

Jerry Stackhouse went through his first full workout since straining his right groin and didn’t appear to have any setbacks.

“That was a good sign,” Avery Johnson said. “He’s not playing tomorrow in Portland. We know that for a fact. We’ll see how he recovers.”

That does leave open the possibility of his return coming Sunday at Seattle. That’s the game Stackhouse has been shooting for. Howard is officially listed as day-to-day.

“If he doesn’t play, it’s not the end of the world right now,” Johnson said. “We had to get on the train, we’re on the train, we don’t know what our position is in line, but we’re going in with trying to get our team consistently ready for the playoffs.

“If somebody is injured, they’re not going to play. If somebody is managing some minor ailments that can become a major deal, then maybe we’ll think about not playing them. But right now we’re with the mind set that everybody is suiting up, everybody is playing who’s healthy to play.”

Johnson isn’t planning on shutting Nowitzki and his tender left ankle down, though he added: “One game we might take him really, really low on this trip, but he wants to stay in uniform for all three games.” Johnson is talking about minutes, not limbo.

“I feel fine,” Nowitzki said. “It’s never going to be 100 percent until the playoffs anyway, so I’d rather keep my rhythm. Once the adrenaline is flowing during the game, it actually feels good. I’m moving a lot better than I did last week. When I wake up in the morning and practice days it’s usually pretty stiff, but once the game gets going and everybody is fired up, it actually feels pretty good.”

Deron's 3-point play that almost was

It may have gotten lost in the drama of Dirk Nowitzki’s 3-point dagger, but Deron Williams’ almost 3-point play with 11.5 seconds left may have led to an all-out mutiny by the Dallas bench last night.

The Jazz were down three and Williams had just missed a trey. Mehmet Okur tracked down the rebound and got the ball back to Williams, who began to drive. Jason Kidd grabbed Williams about 18 feet from the basket, the whistle apparently blew and Williams continued on and dunked.

No problem. Williams would have two free throws. Not so fast. One official inexplicably ruled continuation, which would have given Williams a chance to tie the game. Avery Johnson and his staff exploded.

“That would be the old Dr. J continuation from the ABA,” Johnson quipped today.

The officials eventually huddled and got the call right, putting Williams on the line for two shots. So what would Johnson have done if the original call had been allowed to stand?

“I would have been in the locker room,” he deadpanned. Yes, a couple of technicals would have followed.

50 is the new 60

Considering the strength of the Western Conference this season and the work it took just to get into the playoffs, Avery Johnson attached a little extra significance to Thursday’s milestone win.

“I feel as good about the 50th win as I felt about the 60th win two years ago, especially with the stiffness of this league,” he said. “It’s a big accomplishment.”

The Mavs and Spurs are the only two teams in the league to notch at least 50 victories in each of the last eight years. The Mavs’ streak of eight straight postseasons is easily the longest run in franchise history.

Barkley sings Mavs praises

Charles Barkley is on the bandwagon. It’s true. Well, that’s not exactly shocking news for those who have kept tabs on Round Mound this season.

The Chuckster is down with the team that may be the hottest in the Western Conference right now. The playoffs suddenly look more inviting after wins over Golden State, Phoenix and Utah.

“The one team that I think puts fear in the bottom of your heart is the Dallas Mavericks, that’s a team you don’t want to see,” Barkley said on TNT last night. “I’m buying Dallas for the simple fact that even when they were losing all those games they went down to the buzzer. Jason Kidd can keep them in the game for 3 ½ quarters and then Dirk needs to be the MVP with the game on the line.”

Nowitzki sure was last night with 32 points and that heart-stopping buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat the Jazz.

Notables from 97-94 win vs. Jazz

TONIGHT’S KEY PLAY: Dallas led 94-91 before Deron Williams hit a 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds to go to tie the game. Out of timeouts, the Mavericks inbounded from their baseline. Dirk Nowitzki received a pass from Eddie Jones and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 00.9 seconds remaining in regulation.

• The Mavericks have now won 50 games for each of the last 8 seasons. The San Antonio Spurs are the only other franchise to have won at least 50 games in every season over that span (9 consecutive 50-win seasons).
• With the Mavs’ win and Denver’s win at Golden State (114-105), Dallas clinched a Western Conference playoff berth. The berth marks Dallas’ 8th consecutive.
• Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 32 points (12-23 FGs, 4-5 3FGs, 4-5 FTs) for his 19th 30-point game of the season.
• Josh Howard left the game in the 3rd quarter with a bruised right knee. He attempted to play late in the period before leaving the game for good in the 4th quarter.
• Eddie Jones made his 1,542nd 3-pointer tonight. With the make, he tied for 5th all-time in 3-point makes (Tim Hardaway).
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,378 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 275 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 312 games including the postseason. Dallas currently owns the longest running sellout streak in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings previously held the streak but failed to sellout their home opener this season. The Mavs are now ranked #10 on the all-time NBA sellout streak list.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dirk's late 3 clinches playoff spot

Is there a more fitting way to clinch a spot in the playoffs?

Dirk Nowitzki drilled a hurry-up 3-pointer with less than a second left to lift the Mavericks past Utah and back into the postseason for the eighth consecutive season. The 97-94 victory Thursday night at American Airlines Center coupled with Denver beating Golden State dropped the magic number to zero.

The latest playoff trip took a good deal more sweat than years past and the 48-minute slugfest with Utah was appropriate in a season where nothing has come easy. Nowitzki scored 32 and Jason Terry added 21, all in the second half, as the Mavs (50-29) also joined San Antonio as the only two teams to win at least 50 games in each of the last eight years.

Momentum and the lead swung from side-to-side in the fourth quarter as both clubs showed why the Western Conference playoffs promise to be an all-out war of attrition. Neither side gave an inch in taking the game right down to the final horn.

The dramatics were especially pronounced in the final 10 seconds. Utah point guard Deron Williams banked a desperation 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left to knot the score at 94-all. Eddie Jones pushed the ball up the floor without any timeouts and forced the Jazz defense to commit before rifling the ball to Nowitzki on the left wing.

The reigning MVP let one fly and the ball dropped through the net with 0.9 showing on the clock. He celebrated with the now-patented pull-the-jersey-down move as the sellout crowd of 20,378 exploded. The party continued after Williams missed another desperate heave at the buzzer.

The effort had to go in the “complete game” file. The evening had all the elements – a fast start, stout defense, balance, a solid bench, hustle plays across the board and a strong finish. The Jazz (52-27) were also coming in on a high, having held San Antonio and New Orleans – the previous two opponents – to an average of 65 points.

The Mavs are working on an impressive string when facing playoff contenders, having gone 3-1 against some of the best in the West over the last eight days.

Josh Howard out with bruised knee

Josh Howard bruised right knee is out and won’t return. He banged knees with an unidentified player and came out of the game.

Howard did come back, but wasn’t moving well. He retreated to the locker room for treatment.

Stack bides his time

The strained right groin that has sidelined Jerry Stackhouse for the last seven games isn’t as painful as just sitting on the sidelines. His competitive streak has been put to the test over the last two weeks.

“It’s mental,” he said, “when you can’t really participate in the fun part of it, practice, games and you’re on the sideline doing tube walking.”

Avery Johnson has tried to ease Stackhouse’s mind by passing along a Bible passage dealing with perseverance. Stackhouse has also been on the phone with mom often.

Stackhouse remains on schedule to possibly return on the upcoming road trip. He said earlier in the week that Sunday at Seattle is the target date, which has him back for the last two games of the regular season.

“If it’s Game 7 right now, I’d be out there,” Stackhouse said. “But it’s not.”

Johnson would like to see him for at least 16-18 minutes in the finale Wednesday if he can’t go against the Sonics.

Going down to the last day is beneficial

Avery Johnson has been saying it for weeks. Playoff pairings in the Western Conference are going down to the last day of the regular season and, you know what, he’s right.

Without doing the math, and believe me I don’t have the time or the know-how, it’s safe to expect several, if not all, of the four matchups will be decided Wednesday.

“It’s kind of similar to the year we went to the Finals,” Johnson said, referring to 2006. “We weren’t fighting for a playoff seed, but we were fighting for positioning and we were able to play all the way to the 81st game. We rested on that 82nd game.

“We’re hoping that we’re in a similar situation now. That we can get this thing wrapped up as soon as we can, but more than anything we want to be playing some good basketball.”

The three games leading up to Utah tonight suggest that is taking place. Wins over Golden State and Phoenix were sandwiched around a loss to the Lakers. That stretch followed an 11-game losing streak to teams with winning records, including the last 10 since trading for Jason Kidd.

“Obviously, we haven’t had much success against some of the better teams in the league,” Johnson said. “Like I kept telling the guys, it’s over with. We’ve got to learn from it. We just weren’t right and we had too many miscues and we just weren’t right in a lot of ways.”

And now?

“How have we been in the last three games in those situations against some of the better teams in our league? So we’re 2-1 now and that’s how we’re looking at it,” Johnson continued. “Forget about what happened before that. If we can continue to use it as an advantage and not look past anybody and remain focused, then I think it can be of some benefit to us.”

Allen back tonight, no change with Stack

Malik Allen is back in the lineup tonight against Utah after missing the last two games with back spasms. The veteran forward has become a valuable part of the rotation.

“He had a pretty good practice yesterday and is moving around a lot better,” Avery Johnson said today.

Jerry Stackhouse remains on schedule to possibly return on the upcoming road trip. He said earlier this week that Sunday at Seattle is the target date, which has him back for the last two games of the regular season.

“I would like to see a minimum of one game, maximum of two,” Johnson said. “The maximum two games is doubtful, but the minimum one game is looking pretty good if we have no setbacks.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Jet finds the right time to take flight

Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t too happy, but he was also trying to make a point. Jason Terry had just led the Mavericks in scoring, but Nowitzki was the one asked to do the post-game TV interview.

Sure, it was Nowitzki’s first game back, so naturally he was the guy ESPN wanted. That didn’t stop him from pointing up to Terry’s 31 points on the scoreboard and cracking during the interview about there being a Terry “sighting” that night.

Teammates rib each other all the time and Nowitzki is notorious for running his mouth, so there was nothing malicious in the jab. But there was a hint of truth in it. Terry hasn’t had a bad season by any stretch, but something has been a little off.

“My role has changed throughout the course of the season, but at the same time there was a lot going on,” Terry said Wednesday after practice. “We have a new team, trying to implement new guys and I have no problem with it. I’m rolling with it and at the end of the tunnel there is light.”

And the end of this season, there should be playoffs. Terry is counting on the postseason to prove he can still spread those wings. The team’s biggest in-game supporter – you’ve seen him cheering on his teammates and revving up the crowd – has endeared himself to fans with an infectious smile and attitude.

For all the stuff fans love, Terry wouldn’t be a favorite without his shot. He knows it. So do his teammates and coaches. So when the shot is not there and his production fluctuates, people notice. He’s not a playmaker or lock-down defender. He’s a shooter.

“The guys’ individual performances make up the team,” Avery Johnson said. “If Jet is taking his shots and doing the little things, it makes the team better.”

Read the rest of this story along with a Jazz preview at

Playoff implications of Thursday night

The bottom of the Western Conference playoff bracket won’t be settled tomorrow night, but however the evening unfolds will go a long way to deciding the last two spots. The seventh-place Mavs (49-29) host Utah, while Denver (47-31) visits Golden State (47-31).

The magic number for the Mavs is currently two (any combination of wins and Golden State losses) with four games left. Here are the playoff and magic number scenarios for the Mavs:

• Clinch playoff spot with win and Denver beating Golden State.
• Magic number one with win and Golden State beating Denver.
• Magic number one with loss and Denver beating Golden State.
• Magic number two with loss and Golden State beating Denver.

Should the Mavs get in, the first-round foe would likely be the No. 1 or 2 seed. Who would that be? New Orleans? San Antonio? LA Lakers? Utah? Phoenix? Who knows? Regardless of what happens, the Mavs aren’t worried about jockeying for position to match up with a certain team.

“Not this year,” Avery Johnson said. “I tell you, a couple of years ago we were hoping we played a certain team in the first round, but now I think it’s going to be this way probably for the next five years until some teams just fall off the map a little bit.

“I think of the matchups in the first round, you don’t really want to play anybody. I don’t know who really wants to play us.”

The Jazz sure can 'D' up

Talk about defense. Utah has allowed 130 points in their last two games. Two. And it’s not as if the Jazz are playing Miami every night.

Utah gave up 64 to San Antonio and 66 to New Orleans – the top two teams in the Western Conference in successive games. The Jazz visit American Airlines Center tomorrow night.

“Tough matchup,” Avery Johnson said today. “A New Orleans team that only scores 60 points or something like that on them last night and the Spurs didn’t score many on them. They’re playing some terrific defense.

“The last two times we’ve been in Utah we’ve gotten off to slow starts, then we ended up coming back. We have to get off to a better start. We have to be ready to play physical basketball once we hit the gym. We have to be in the position where we’re proactive. We can’t be on our heels against this team.”

Playoff tickets go on sale Saturday

Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the First Round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs will go on sale starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 12th. Tickets will be available online at, via phone at 1-800-4NBA-TIX and at the American Airlines Center North Box Office.

Tickets priced $12 and up will be available and purchase is limited to four tickets per person - two tickets for each game or four tickets for one game. There will be approximately 1,000 tickets available for purchase for each game.

A lottery system will be in place for those fans that choose to purchase their tickets at American Airlines Center. Beginning at 7 a.m., a lottery number will be given to each fan. At approximately 9 a.m., there will be adrawing to determine the first person in line. All numbers sequentially following the drawn number will be the second, third, fourth, etc. in line.

Please note that game tickets are available through all channels simultaneously, and as a reminder, lottery numbers (at American AirlinesCenter) do not guarantee anyone the right to purchase game tickets. Tickets will be sold upon availability.

American Airlines Center policy prohibits camping out on the premises. Dates and times for the first two games have not been announced but will be posted on by April 17th.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Notables from 99-83 win vs. Sonics

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas led 73-67 with 9:40 to go in the 4th quarter. The Mavs then started an 18-4 run through the 4:07 mark of the period to take a 91-71 lead.

• Dirk Nowitzki recorded his 25th double-double of the season (11 points, 12 rebounds).
• Dallas improved to 13-8 when Jason Terry scores 20+ points. Tonight, Terry contributed a game-high tying 22 points (9-11 FGs, 2-2 3FGs, 2-2 FTs) to go with 6 assists.
Seattle’s Earl Watson recorded his 7th game of 20 points tonight with 22 (9-15 FGs, 0-1 3FGs, 4-4 FTs).
• Dallas improved to 20-4 when shooting better than 50% from the field (50.6% on 39-77 FGs, 7-16 3FGs).
• Dallas held Seattle to just 38.1% from the field (32-84 FGs, 1-7 3FGs). The Mavs are 15-4 when holding an opponent to under 40% FG.
• Dallas has now won 13 straight games over the Sonics dating back to 12/9/04 (102-107 loss in DAL). Dallas has won the last 5 at AAC.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,228 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 274 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 311 games including the postseason. Dallas currently owns the longest running sellout streak in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings previously held the streak but failed to sellout their home opener this season. The Mavs are now ranked #10 on the all-time NBA sellout streak list.

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.

Plaxico in Dallas?

Giants receiver Plaxico Burress famously didn’t practice all season, instead resting his ankle/knee injuries all week for games. We all know how the story ended for the Cowboys’ NFC East rivals.

Sounds like the Dirk Nowitzki prescription.

“I know people down here probably won’t want to use that term, but if that’s the way we have to look at it, I think we like what happens at the end of that by winning a championship,” Jason Kidd said today. “Whatever Dirk has to do to get ready, it’s been working so why mess with it.”

Speaking of Nowitzki’s ailment, the percentages being thrown around for his left ankle are all over the map. Depending on when it’s being said and the drama quotient involved, the numbers are anywhere from 60-75 percent.

“You can only dream,” Kidd said whimsically. “I wish I could be at 60 percent doing the things that he does.”

Whether those numbers are accurate, one thing is certain: Nowitzki is improving. He’s under the expert care and supervision of trainers Casey Smith and Dionne Calhoun, and team doctor T.O. Souryal, and continues to receive the best rehab available.

Continuing the roll before the playoffs

A victory tonight over Seattle gets the Mavs another step closer to their eighth consecutive playoff spot. The magic number is three. Denver and Golden State, currently tied for eight and two games back, are also playing tonight.

Knocking out a few wins does more than lock up a berth.

“The only thing I want to do is have some momentum and that’s the best thing that I think we can have,” Avery Johnson said after shootaround. “If we can win our share of games in these last couple of games that we have, I think we’ll be in good shape.

“To win that game in Phoenix won’t do us any good if we come out here and don’t play like we should tonight. We need to put together some games. We haven’t put together three, four or five games like we should and this would be a good time to do it.”

The Mavs have won three of the last four, including key wins over the Warriors and Suns. The longest winning streak this season is seven, which ended Jan. 12. A clean sweep of the last five would make it a six-game run.

“The marathon is coming down to the end now,” Jason Kidd said. “These five games are important. We want to win all five going into postseason on a high note, healthy and confident. We have a great opportunity to do that.”

Stack shooting for Sunday return

Caught up with Jerry Stackhouse this morning and, as usual, he was in great spirits. Rehab for his strained right groin has gone well and he sees the light at the end of the injury tunnel.

“Feeling good,” he said. “I’m shooting for Sunday.”

A two-game road trip to the Pacific Northwest ends Sunday at Seattle. That’s the second-to-the-last game of the regular season, which ends April 16 against New Orleans at American Airlines Center.

Stackhouse’s timetable should help with the recovery process, since it allows for two days off between the last two games and another break before the playoffs start. He may practice Friday. Stackhouse has missed the last five games and being out until Sunday would make it eight.

In other injury news, Malik Allen (back spasms) is improving, but he remains questionable for tonight’s visit by the Sonics.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mavs up to 10th in NBA Power Rankings has its newest power rankings up. The Mavs were one of the big movers, going up from 15th to tenth in the last week.

Here's the rundown on the Mavs: "Of the three teams vying for the final two Western Conference playoff spots, the Mavericks were the only one to step up and win some games this week. After beating up on the Clippers, Dallas -- inspired by the return of Dirk Nowitzki -- topped the Warriors, marking the first time since the Jason Kidd trade that the Mavs turned back an opponent with a winning record. And after a slight dip against the Lake Show, Dallas rebounded to beat Phoenix with a 16-0 fourth-quarter run on Sunday."

Check out the top five and the rest of the contenders at

Good vibes for final five

The Mavericks had been able to control their own destiny for a while now, even with the recent run of bad luck and sub-par performances. If they could figure out a way to win, they were getting in.

Taking two of the last three games against stout competition, plus the recent stumbles of Denver and Golden State, have solidified the Mavs’ playoff standing. The postseason is not a given just yet, but the waters are much clearer after taking down the Warriors and Suns in span of five days. Winning at Phoenix on Sunday was a real jolt of confidence.

“We were always right there, so I was never really worried, but for some reason we couldn’t figure out how to win,” said Dirk Nowitzki, a downright inspiring presence since returning from injury. “But every good team we’ve played so far we were right there on the road or at home. It felt great to finally get over the hump.

“Everyone in the locker room was pretty hyped up that we had finally pulled this one out and hopefully this can build some momentum. We still have some tough games until the playoffs. If we can get some momentum here in these last games, then we could be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.”

Not only did the Mavs (48-29) beat two playoff-caliber teams, but they bottled up two high-octane machines. The Warriors scored just 86 points – about 25 less than their league-leading average – and Phoenix (the No. 2 scoring team) scored just nine in the fourth quarter and 98 overall.

“It was huge,” Jason Terry said. “Look at our defensive output, holding both those teams to under 100 points. Those are the highest scoring teams in the league – just awesome. That has given us the confidence we needed out of that Golden State game and now to win one on the road against Phoenix, hey, we’ve got to be able to ride this wave all the way into the playoffs.”

Read the rest of this story and get a Seattle preview at

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dirk and defense too much for Suns

PHOENIX – A tongue-wagging Dirk Nowitzki may be the defining image of the Mavericks’ come-from-behind 105-98 victory Sunday afternoon at US Airways Center. The unbridled expression followed a stumbling step-back jumper on the left baseline that clinched the win and made for good TV.

But Nowitzki’s heroics weren’t the sole reason Dallas was able to capture another of these regular-season playoff games. The Mavs completely shut down Phoenix in the fourth quarter, a stifling defensive display that frustrated Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal, Amare Stoudemire and the rest of the high-flying Suns. Phoenix, up 11 going into the quarter, managed just nine points in the final 12 minutes.

“That’s really what won the game,” Nowitzki said.

The Mavs (48-29) answered with 27 to put the finishing touches on the dramatic comeback before returning home with a solid two-game split against Pacific Division heavyweights. Two days after failing to hold a late lead against the Lakers, Avery Johnson’s crew didn’t falter after taking the lead with five minutes left.

“We took the ball to the basket, unlike the third quarter,” Johnson said. “We moved the ball on offense, unlike the third quarter. It all clicked for us. Swinging the ball helped out with our defense. We just hadn’t been able to win these types of games and it’s good for us it finally happened.”

The win reduces the magic number for clinching a playoff spot to three with five games left, as Dallas remained seventh in the Western Conference. The ninth-place Warriors (46-30) lost earlier in the day, leaving Golden State two full games back of the Mavs. No. 8 Denver had Seattle on the docket Sunday night.

Nowitzki didn’t let a bum left ankle hold him back, despite wincing in pain throughout the game. The reigning MVP battled his way to 32 points and 12 rebounds – both team highs – in 38 minutes, his longest showing since coming back. Nowitzki single-handedly outscored Phoenix in the fourth with 12 points.

Read the rest of this story along with more game coverage at

Frontline rotation vs. Suns without Allen

Malik Allen (back spasms) is out today and joined on the inactive list by JJ Barea and Jerry Stackhouse. Allen’s absence opens up a spot for reserve center Jamaal Magloire, who’s been mostly relegated to inactive duty lately.

“Malik is somebody against big centers like that that we love to be able to play and stretch the floor because he’s such a terrific shooter, so not having that option and not having that option of Stackhouse in games like this, in a perfect world you’d love to have them, but it’s not always a perfect world so somebody else has to step up and do something good for us,” Avery Johnson said.

Magloire hasn’t done much since joining the Mavs, but he does have the kind of size (6-11, 265) that could be needed against Shaquille O’Neal, especially if Erick Dampier gets in foul trouble.

The Mavs will also need more than 12 seconds out of Brandon Bass. Dirk Nowitzki can only do so much physically against Amare Stoudemire. Look for more zone defense today. Not a lot, but more than usual.

“When you’re playing against these teams that really spread you out with a lot of 3-point shooters, you can use it and sometimes if it works you stick with it, but if not you’ve got to try to find something else,” Johnson said. “I’d like our man-to-man defense to be much better than it was the last game.

“We had the highest rated defensive performance we’ve ever had in the history of the rating against Golden State and then we had one of the lower ones in the last three years against LA. If we can find some consistency with our defense, we scored enough points – 108 points should be enough for us to beat most teams.”