SEATTLE (AP) -- Avery Johnson is insisting on strong defense and
his Dallas Mavericks are buying into the idea.
Behind 31 points from All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks
improved to 12-2 with Johnson as head coach after a 95-90 win over
the Seattle SuperSonics Wednesday night. It was Dallas' fifth
"He preaches defense 24 hours a day," Dallas guard Jason Terry
said. "We want to be a defensive team. It's a work in progress and
we're not there yet."
Since Johnson took over, Dallas (54-24) has been holding teams
to just 91 points per game. Seattle shot just 40 percent, and
leading scorer Ray Allen was harassed into a 7-for-20 shooting
It was Seattle's sixth straight loss and kept the SuperSonics
(50-28) from clinching the Northwest Division title. Seattle needs
one win or a loss by Denver for its first division title since
Seattle has not won since beating Portland on April 1.
"We were right there," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "We
just didn't do a good job of executing."
Nowitzki was tough late as Dallas held off one final Seattle
charge. He made two free throws with 1:14 left to break an 87-87
tie. Allen made one free throw for Seattle with 58 seconds left and
Terry followed with a baseline jumper to give the Mavericks a 91-88
Seattle's Antonio Daniels missed a jumper with 39 seconds left
and Nowitzki hit a 16-footer from the baseline with 17 seconds
remaining to put the game away. He added two free throws in the
final seconds as Dallas improved to 20-2 when Nowitzki scores at
least 30 points.
"Obviously we would have liked an easier win, but they played
well and came back on us," Nowitzki said. "We did the things we
need to do down the stretch to win the game."
Allen finished with 19 points for Seattle, but was held to just
three points in the fourth quarter. Daniels returned from an injury
to add 17.
Terry scored 15 points for Dallas, while Jerry Stackhouse added
14 off the bench, Keith Van Horn scored 12 and Erick Dampier had
10. Dallas won despite going 17-of-29 from the free throw line and
getting outrebounded 45-30.
"I felt like we showed a lot of heart," Daniels said. "We
just have to win. We can't be looking over our shoulder back at
The banged up SuperSonics welcomed back All-Star Rashard Lewis
and key reserves Daniels and Danny Fortson from injuries, hoping to
wrap up the division and perhaps give players an opportunity to
rest heading into the playoffs.
Lewis missed the last eight games with a deep bone bruise on his
right foot. He showed early signs of rust, missing his first four
shots, but finished with 12 points in 36 minutes. He had not played
since March 27.
"I was told right before the game I could play him 30 (minutes)
as opposed to 20 to 25," McMillan said. "He looked like he was
winded and I thought at the end he was moving a little slow ... but
that's to be expected coming back after being off for so long."
The SuperSonics' best chance at clinching the division may come
Friday night when they host New Orleans in their home finale.
Seattle closes the season with road games at Minnesota, Dallas and
Dallas led by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but
Seattle rallied behind 10 third-quarter points from Jerome James.
The SuperSonics took their first lead at 75-73 with 8:11 left on
Behind Nowitzki, the Mavericks scored nine of the next 11 points
to go ahead 82-77. It was Seattle's second-straight home loss to
Dallas, losing 95-92 on Feb. 13.
"That's a tough game to swallow," Daniels said. "For the
second time we've played those guys and felt we had them, but they
hit some shots."
Daniels missed the last three games with a left knee
injury, and Fortson sat out the last two with a left shoulder
sprain. Both entered the game with 3:33 left in the first quarter.
... Stackhouse returned after he was suspended for Monday's win
over Memphis for "conduct detrimental to the team." ... Johnson
started his career with Seattle in 1988 on a team that included
future NBA head coaches McMillan and John Lucas.