<
>

Nowitzki overcomes back injury to lift Mavs past 'Cats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki looked nothing like a guy
with a back so sore he wasn't sure he could play a mere 90 minutes
before tipoff.

Nowitzki lit up the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night, scoring
23 points and 16 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 98-88 victory.

"The back felt a lot better than I thought it would," he said.

Nowitzki was a game-time decision for the Mavericks because of a
lower back strain that sidelined him for the second half of
Wednesday night's loss at Philadelphia. Even during the pregame
warmup he said he wasn't positive he would play because it wasn't
worth "risking anything" this early in the season.

Yet he was on the floor at the opening tip and didn't appear to
be in any pain during his 40 minutes on the floor.

"We didn't want him to play 40, but he felt pretty good and he
looked OK," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said.

Although Dallas owner Mark Cuban said after the game that
Nowitzki's playing status was never in doubt, Nowitzki said he
needed a strong pregame warmup to ensure he could go.

"It felt great, it started in warmups," he said. "I got loose
really good and told Avery I wanted to play and that was that."

Nowitzki helped Dallas open a 47-39 lead at halftime with 13
points and 10 rebounds. Dallas never trailed, led by 21 early in
the fourth quarter and only let the Bobcats make it close in the
final minutes.

Nowitzki wasn't Charlotte's only problem: The Bobcats were
partially done in on by their own shooting woes.

"We were ashamed we came on the court like that," Charlotte
forward Melvin Ely said. "We are a better team than we showed."

Charlotte shot just 35 percent for the game, and lacked much
offensive power with leading scorer Gerald Wallace (16.2 points)
out with a chipped bone in his right wrist. The bench also was
short when Jumaine Jones had to return to Los Angeles when his
pregnant wife went into unexpected labor.

It meant extended playing time for guard Bernard Robinson, who
notched five fouls and a pair of turnovers in just over nine
minutes of play.

Since opening the season 2-1 to notch their first winning record
in franchise history, the Bobcats have lost three straight.

"We were lethargic as hell," Charlotte coach Bernie
Bickerstaff said.

Devin Harris scored 21 points off the bench for Dallas, Keith
Van Horn added 16 and Josh Howard had 12.

Ely led Charlotte with 14 points. Kareem Rush had 13 and Emeka
Okafor finished with 11. Jake Voskuhl made his Charlotte debut
after missing the first five games with a sprained ankle. He scored
five points in 15 minutes.

Game notes
Dallas now heads to Oklahoma City for a Saturday night game
against the Hornets. It will be Johnson's first trip to Oklahoma
since he spent one season playing for Cameron University, but he
wasn't exactly thrilled to be returning. "I was looking forward to
having some gumbo (in New Orleans) on Saturday," he said. ... The
Bobcats were asked to name their favorite musical artists in a
feature shown on the scoreboard and center Primoz Brezec, a native
of Slovenia, drew hearty laughs when he said Michael Jackson.