Magic no match for Mavs
Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
ORLANDO — It took Dirk Nowitzki 63 games last season to reach 26 double-doubles. He hit that mark in 2007 on Tuesday night — in 20 fewer contests.
Nowitzki's defending Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks are also ahead of schedule, beating the Orlando Magic 111-95 for their 35th win of the season.
Nowitzki had 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Josh Howard added 25 points. It was the Mavericks' 21st victory in 22 games, and it kept them ahead of last season's franchise-record 60-win pace.
How good is Dallas? To the weak Eastern Conference, scary good.
"We're about as hungry as it gets," Nowitzki said. "We were so close last year. It was a very, very disappointing loss at the end. But more than anything it's motivation for us to work even harder this year."
For the second consecutive night, after beating the Miami Heat in a rematch of last year's NBA finals, the Mavericks led from beginning to end. Dallas was up 16 at the end of the first quarter and pushed the margin to 25 points in the second with a 15-5 run capped by Nowitzki's three-point play. The Mavericks kept it around 20 points most of the second and third periods.
Orlando pulled within 11 points in the third with a 13-4 run, but it happened with Nowitzki resting.
It was the closest the Magic had been since 8 minutes into the first quarter, and aside from a quick basket to begin the fourth, it was the closest they would come.
Dallas rattled off six unanswered points, including a fast-break dunk from Nowitzki, to put the lead back at 14 and out of Orlando's reach.
"We saw a pretty good team," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "Obviously, we can't spot a team a 16-point first quarter, especially a good team like that, and win the game. They ran by us early in the game, shot over us, went around us to start the game and we tried to play catch-up from that point on. It was too hard to do with a team of this caliber."
Jameer Nelson scored 23 points for the Magic and keyed the third-quarter run that brought Orlando back into the game. Hedo Turkoglu scored 17, Grant Hill had 15 points and Dwight Howard finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Dwight Howard attempted only 10 shots from the field, even though all three Dallas big men (Eric Dampier, DeSagana Diop and DJ Mbenga) were in foul trouble most of the game.
Jason Terry had 14 points and six assists for the Mavericks, and Devin Harris had 13 points.
Nowitzki scored at will on a 12-for-17 performance of mid-range jumpers, layups and drives — and the rest of the Mavericks weren't far behind in the first half. Dallas shot 26-of-40 from the field, including 8-of-11 by Josh Howard for 18 points in the period.
Josh Howard went cold in the second and third quarters, scoring seven points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Orlando hit 44 percent for the game, to 55 percent for the Mavericks.
"We knew they were riding off a back-to-back, so we wanted to get out there and run, and we just stuck to the game plan," Josh Howard said.
The Magic couldn't find open shots all night, picking up most of their 12 turnovers (for 18 Dallas points) on tipped or errant passes. Guards were forced several times into hesitant, last-second shots after dribbling around the perimeter and finding no one open.
· Notes: Dallas had lost seven of its last eight in Orlando by an average of 12 points. ... It was Orlando's first time in three games scoring less than 100 points. The Magic had gone five games before that under 100.
The Associated Press
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) bats a rebound away from Orlando's Darko Milicic in the second half Tuesday in Orlando.
BRIEFS HEAD NO KICKER
· Suns 127, Wizards 105: Steve Nash and visiting Phoenix made Gilbert Arenas and Washington look more like pretenders than contenders, putting the so-called "Phoenix Suns of the East" in their place with a thumping.
Nash scored 27 points on 11-for-13 shooting and added 14 assists in the Suns' 14th straight win. Phoenix led by 21 after the first quarter and won for the 30th time in 32 games in a matchup between the NBA's two highest-scoring teams.
Arenas, who has compared his team's high-octane offense to the Suns', scored 31 points, but he started 1-for-6 and the game was essentially over before he got going. When he finally made his second field goal, it only served to cut the Suns' lead to 24. The Wizards cut the lead to 13 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Suns responded with a 6-0 run to put the game out of reach.
· 76ers 102, Hornets 96: Kyle Korver scored 25 points, Andre Iguodala added 20 and Philadelphia held on to beat New Orleans.
The 76ers got double-figure scoring from five players and opened the second half of their season with a victory after going 11-30 over the first 41 games.
· Bulls 94, Hawks 86: Luol Deng scored 18 points and Kirk Hinrich added 12 points and 12 assists to lead host Chicago to a win over Atlanta.
P.J. Brown scored a season-high 15 points and had nine rebounds for Chicago, which has won nine straight over the Hawks.
· Timberwolves: In a season and a half with Minnesota, Dwane Casey became known for his even-keeled demeanor, never getting too high or too low.
His team never could capture that same consistency on the court, which ultimately led to the coach's ouster.
Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale fired Casey on Tuesday, one day after Minnesota lost its fourth consecutive game.
Assistant coach Randy Wittman will take over as interim coach in a situation similar to 2005, when longtime coach Flip Saunders was fired in midseason and replaced on the bench by McHale.
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