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Wells scores career-high 45 points in loss

4/24/2003

DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki knew he couldn't keep doing it
alone. Steve Nash and Michael Finley made sure he didn't have to.

With each member of Dallas' Big Three coming through in the
clutch, the Mavericks withstood a career-best 45 points from Bonzi Wells and beat the Portland Trail Blazers 103-99 Wednesday night to
take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

Nash had 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki
scored 25 and Finley added 17 as the Dallas moved halfway to
winning its best-of-7 matchup. Game 3 is Friday night in Portland.

This was more like what Dallas expects from its trio of stars,
unlike Game 1 when Nowitzki had 46 points, a career best and team
playoff record, and Finley and Nash combined for 23.

"That game was one for the ages in Mavericks history. We can't
expect him to do that every night,'' said Nash, who was 5-of-6 on
3-pointers and had eight assists. "Tonight was more indicative of
the balance we need.''

The Trail Blazers have lost nine straight playoff games dating
to 2000 and are in jeopardy of getting swept out of the playoffs
for the fourth time in five years.

"Being down 0-2 is really tough, but we're definitely going to
try to get this thing to come back to Dallas,'' said Wells, who
broke Clyde Drexler's team playoff record of 42 points. "We're not
going to give up.''

The Blazers proved that in this game, going up by four early in
the fourth period after trailing throughout the second and third
quarters. Even with the Mavs making 10-of-14 shots in the final
period, Portland still tied the game at 98 with 48.2 seconds left
on a three-point play by Dale Davis.

Then Nash hit a 3-pointer over Davis with 29.7 seconds left,
even if replays showed his toes were on the line. Finley soared for
a rebound of a missed free throw by Wells on the other end, leading
to two free throws by Nash with 14.5 seconds left.

The Blazers' last gasp ended when Rasheed Wallace and Jeff
McInnis missed hurried 3-pointers. Eduardo Najera snagged the final
rebound and dribbled out the clock to the joy of a crowd of 20,356,
a team record for the second straight game.

"We knew this would be a lot tougher than Game 1,'' Finley
said. "They battled for all 48 minutes. We knew we had to keep our
composure and stay together as a team, and that carried us
through.''

The Big Three worked best as a unit during the fourth quarter
when Dallas made eight straight shots. Finley started it with a
3-pointer and Nash followed with two more. Nowitzki had a jumper
and capped it with a 3-pointer.

Wells was just as hot. He scored 14 of Portland's first 17
points in the final period. He finished 16-of-24, hitting 5-of-6 behind the arc and 8-of-11 at the line.

"We tried different defenses, but he was in a good zone,''
Finley said. "We're happy time ran out.''

The Blazers never found a second consistent scorer. Wallace had
18 points, but went 6-of-17. He even shot an airball on an
uncontested 3-pointer with 5:40 left that would've put the Blazers
ahead.

Portland also got only three minutes out of its usual starting
backcourt as Scottie Pippen didn't dress and Derek Anderson left
with an injury. Both have injured left knees. Their status for the next game hasn't been announced.

"Not having them takes away from our whole team chemistry,''
Wells said.

Wells' final miss led to Davis' tying basket and free throw.
Then Nash made his go-ahead 3-pointer over Davis, which the Blazers
insisted should've been a 2-pointer.

"You saw it, everybody saw it,'' Davis said. "It's no
secret.''

Wells also missed his second free throw with 26.2 seconds left.
Had he hit both, Portland still would've trailed by one.

"They did what they're supposed to do, which is defend their
home court. Now we've got to do the same,'' said Blazers coach
Maurice Cheeks.

Portland harassed Nowitzki from the start, and he was 8-of-25
with nine rebounds and four turnovers. Nowitzki missed his first
six shots after making his first six in the opener. His first
basket wasn't until 10:49 of the second quarter.

"They pressured me a lot and they made me put the ball on the
floor,'' Nowitzki said. "I knew they would be a lot more physical
with me.''

Dallas used only eight players, but only got points from seven.
And two of them fouled out: Raef LaFrentz (six points, three
rebounds) was gone with 8:44 left and Shawn Bradley (three points,
six rebounds) joined him with 4:34 to play.

Damon Stoudamire, who started in Pippen's place, had nine points
and five assists. Davis had seven points and 15 rebounds. The
Blazers' reserves had only 18 points, a huge drop from 39 in the
opener.

Game notes
Wells' previous career best was 37. ... The best
head-to-head matchup in the series remains Davis vs. Bradley. They
bang on almost every possession and in this game each put a hard
foul on the other. ... The Mavs took their first free throw 1:23
into the game, a big change from the opener, when they didn't reach
the line until midway through the second quarter.