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Nowitzki pours in 36 as Van Horn adds 21

BOSTON (AP) -- When it came to finishing off the Boston Celtics,
the high-scoring Dallas Mavericks turned to an unlikely source:
defense.

Dallas used a 22-6 run early in the fourth quarter to break open
a close game and extend the Celtics' losing streak to four games
with a 112-100 victory Wednesday night.

"We worked on being able to close out games early in the season
defensively," said Dirk Nowitzki, who led Dallas with 36 points.
"Offense will come and go, but defense is what wins games down the
stretch. Five or six good solid minutes on defense set the tone in
the fourth quarter."

Keith Van Horn added 21 for the Mavericks, who won for the ninth
time in 11 games and continued to excel on the road. They have
league's third-best road record at 24-11.

Since winning 11 of 12 after acquiring Antoine Walker, the
Celtics and their star have slumped. Walker has shot just 33
percent during the four-game slide.

After Ricky Davis cut the Mavericks' lead to 77-76 with 11:15
left, Van Horn, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse combined to score
17 points during the pivotal run, giving Dallas its biggest lead of
the game at 99-82.

The Celtics pulled to within 101-92 with 2:12 remaining on a
runner by Walker, but Nowitzki converted two three-point plays in
the next minute to put the game out of reach.

"I thought we played great defense when we needed to,"
Stackhouse said. "We were the better defensive team tonight and
that made the difference."

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 21 points. Ricky Davis and
Walker each added 18.

"We are not playing well and it's at the wrong time of year,"
Pierce said. "We've run into a wall but we need to learn from this
experience."

With Dallas leading 63-57 halfway through the third quarter, the
Celtics responded with a 9-0 run, capped by Walker's layup.

"I thought we lost to a better team tonight, especially the way
we played," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't think we
played as a team for most of the game."

Nowitzki lifted the Mavericks to a 46-43 halftime lead with 12
second-quarter points, going 10-of-11 from the free throw line.

Van Horn has shot 31-of-54 from the field in the last four
games. Dallas shot 65 percent in the second half after shooting 37
percent in the first half.

"Dirk made some big shots down the stretch for us," Van Horn
said. "Coach (Avery) Johnson knows how to use big guys like myself
and Dirk that can play different spots on the court."

Game notes
Stackhouse returned to the Mavericks' lineup after missing
20 of 24 games with a groin injury. ... The Mavericks swept the
season series from Boston for the fifth time in six years. ... Gary
Payton had seven rebounds in the first quarter, two shy of his
season high. ... Nowitzki, Davis and Walker all received technical
fouls in the second quarter. Walker and Davis came off the bench to
intercede in a potential altercation between Nowitzki and Kendrick
Perkins.