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Mavs take big lead in second quarter, coast to win

DALLAS (AP) -- In his first three days as head coach of the
Dallas Mavericks, Avery Johnson's focus has been to install his own
system, with an emphasis on defense.

Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and eight rebounds, and Dallas held
New Orleans to 39 percent shooting as the Mavericks beat the
Hornets 103-86 on Monday night in Johnson's second game as an NBA
head coach.

The Mavericks have won both games since Johnson took over
permanently for Don Nelson on Saturday and have victories in five
of their last six overall.

"Overall, this game wasn't necessarily about playing our
opponent," said Johnson. "It was about improving our system. It
was a good win for us."

Rookie Devin Harris had a season-high 17 points, Michael Finley
added 16 points and Josh Howard had 15 for Dallas.

The Mavericks held an opponent to below 40 percent from the
field for the 15th time this season. Dallas is unbeaten in those
games as Nelson - and Johnson when he was an assistant coach -
tried to convince what had been an offensive-minded team to pay
more attention to the defensive side.

"We knew we could score the ball tonight, but we wanted to get
stops on the other end," said Dallas' Marquis Daniels.

Harris, who got inconsistent minutes from Nelson, played 25
minutes on Monday night and went 3-for-3 from 3-point range.

"Definitely, if (Johnson) gives me an opportunity, I can make
the most of it and get 20 minutes more often," Harris said.

Rookie J.R. Smith had a season-high 27 points and Jamaal
Magliore added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who have
lost six of eight.

The game was tied at 20 after the first quarter. Dallas, which
missed nine straight field goal attempts near the end of the first
quarter, has trailed or been tied entering the second quarter in 12
of the last 13 games.

Then the Mavericks took control, opening the second quarter with
a 32-7 run and built a 56-35 halftime lead. Dallas turned up the
defensive pressure in the second quarter, forcing seven turnovers
and holding New Orleans to 5-of-14 shooting from the field.

"I really liked our defense in the first half," Johnson said.
"We did some really nice things defensively."

Dallas consistently beat New Orleans up the floor in the second
quarter, holding an 8-1 edge in fast break points.

"We just didn't get back as much as we should," Smith said.
"We came in at halftime and looked at the tape and every bucket
they scored was pretty much off fast breaks."

The Mavericks increased their lead to as many as 28 in the third
quarter and held a 83-61 edge heading into the final quarter.

Even with his team ahead by 23 late in the fourth, Johnson made
it clear that sloppy defense won't be tolerated. During a timeout,
Johnson screamed at Jason Terry and Darrell Armstrong for failing
to carry out defensive assignments.

"(Johnson) does a great job of drawing attention to
play-by-play," Terry said. "He lets everybody know where they
stand."<
^Notes: @ The game was also important to Johnson because he's a
native of New Orleans. ... Dallas C Erick Dampier is closer to
returning from the injured list but is still at least a week away.
Dampier, who missed his 16th consecutive game because of a stress
fracture in his right foot, is running and shooting at practice,
but Johnson said the Mavericks won't rush Dampier back. "We just
don't want any setbacks," Johnson said. "We want to handle the
situation delicately...try to get him some games before the end of
the regular season.". ...The Hornets have lost 13 in a row to the
Mavericks.