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Mavs break it open in the fourth

1/4/2004

DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash took
care of the offense, and the Dallas Mavericks had one decent
defensive spurt to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Nowitzki equaled a season-high with 31 points and Finley scored
18 of his 24 in the second half to lead Dallas to a 119-112 victory
Saturday night.

Nowitzki, Finley and Steve Nash combined for 14 points in a 19-4
run to start the fourth quarter as Dallas opened a 21-point lead.
Minnesota did not close within single digits until the final
minute.

"It was good to hit some shots," said Nash, who scored 20
points and handed out a season-high 13 assists. "But (Minnesota)
was hot too. It was definitely a shootout."

Dallas shot 51 percent from the field and made 12 of 24
3-pointers.

Minnesota matched Dallas for most of the game until a six-minute
drought in which it went 1-of-6 with four turnovers.

"We have to do a better job of stopping these guys,"
Minnesota's Sam Cassell said. "We let them play too freely. We
missed a couple of shots and they got some good looks in
transition."

Cassell scored a season-high 34 points for the Timberwolves.
Kevin Garnett scored 27 points and grabbed 22 rebounds, Gary Trent
had a season-high 22 points and Latrell Sprewell added 21.

Dallas led 86-80 after three quarters, then shot 4-of-5 from
3-point range in the 19-4 spurt. Nowitzki made a pair of 3s and
capped the run with three free throws.

"It was really an exciting game and a big win for us," Dallas
coach Don Nelson said. "It didn't look good for a long period of
time, but we got out at the right time and got that big lead."

Nowitzki has been hobbled all season with ankle injuries but
scored more than 30 points for the second time in 10 days.

"My ankles are feeling great," Nowitzki said. "I'm feeling
pain-free and I have more confidence."

Rookie Josh Howard scored all 13 of his points in the first half
before leaving in the third quarter with a strained left hamstring.
He will not play Monday night against the Utah Jazz.

Finley, Nash and Nowitzki combined to score 25 of Dallas' 30
points in the third quarter. Cassell scored 11 points in a 19-9 run
as Minnesota led 73-65, but Dallas scored the next 11 points,
capped by a Finley's 3-pointer.

"They are a very difficult team to defend," Minnesota coach
Flip Saunders said. "We've been pretty good defensively, but
tonight we were not good and they had a lot to do with that."

Finley shot 6-of-9 from 3-point range. He was 2-of-7 from the
field in the first half before going 7-of-8 in the second half.

"A couple of us had off nights," Dallas' Antoine Walker said.
"But we've got guys who can step up and help us score 119. That's
the exciting thing about this team."

Cassell scored Minnesota's first eight points in the second
quarter as the Wolves took a 38-27 lead, but Dallas rallied for a
56-54 halftime lead.

Game notes
Antawn Jamison played in his 278th consecutive game, the
third-longest streak in the NBA. ... Garnett recorded his 27th
double-double of the season, equaling Tim Duncan for the NBA lead.
He also had his fourth 20-20 game. ... Nash posted his fifth
straight double-double. ... Minnesota had won nine of its previous
10 games. ... Walker had 12 points and Jamison had 10.