Mavs wins sixth consecutive behind balance performance

DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki's sprained left ankle was mild
enough to allow him to play a significant role in the Dallas
Mavericks' sixth straight victory.

Nowitzki contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Mavericks
beat the Los Angeles Clippers 115-83 Friday night.

Corey Maggette had 19 points for the Clippers, who have lost six

Nowitzki sat out the final three quarters of Wednesday night's
victory over the Seattle SuperSonics with the ankle injury and the
Mavericks feared at the time that Nowitzki would be out for an
extended stretch.

But there was no swelling in the ankle and Nowitzki, who has
sustained several ankle sprains over his career, was walking
without a limp by Thursday. When he was able to warm up without any
setback, he gave the go-ahead to be included among coach Avery
Johnson's starters.

"I actually decided right before the game," Nowitzki said. "I
worked out this morning and felt OK. Before the game, the ankle was
a little stiff so I wasn't sure, but felt good during the warmup.

"I know a lot about ankle injuries by now. I've had so many
over the years so I knew nothing worse could happen to my ankle by
playing tonight. I'm glad I played and glad for the win."

Nowitzki, who hit three of five 3-pointers, played only 27
minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter after the Mavericks built a
38-point lead.

Josh Howard's 25 points paced the Mavericks, who also got a
season-high 21 points from reserve Devean George.

"We didn't want Dirk to carry us tonight," George said. "He
needed help so we all had to step up. He looked OK at the
shootaround, but he's still not running right and planting right.
Hopefully with a few days off he'll be ready to go full-strength."

George went 5-for-6 from 3-point range for Dallas, which
finished 15-for-27 from beyond the arc to set a season high for

"We had to take this team seriously," George said. "They have
a lot of good players and can catch fire at any time. They're
trying to find themselves right now."

Jason Terry added 15 points for Dallas, including a four-point
play in the second quarter.

Elton Brand had all 18 of his points in the first half for the
Clippers. Chris Kaman finished with 11.

In their first meeting this season, the Clippers were 103-85
winners on Nov. 8 in Los Angeles. At the time, the Clippers were
4-1 and the Mavericks were 0-4.

A lot has changed in the interim.

"We were disappointed they beat us handily in L.A.," Terry
said. "There was a focus and a mind-set to put this team away
early and we did."

Nowitzki got off to a fast start, contributing six points and
seven rebounds in the first quarter while the Mavericks were taking
a 26-22 lead.

Dallas went 8-for-15 from beyond the 3-point line in the first
half, three each by Terry and George, to build a 63-45 advantage at
the break.

The 63 points were the most by the Mavericks in the first half
this season. Dallas shot 53 percent in the first half (23-for-43).

Dallas broke it open with a 14-0 third-quarter spurt.

"They have a lot of weapons, no doubt about it," Clippers
guard Sam Cassell said. "Tonight they used them. They did whatever
they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it and how they wanted
to do it."

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was troubled by his team's
defensive difficulties, especially in the first half.

"It's baffling," Dunleavy said. "We've proven we can defend
the last couple of years. Right now, for some reason, our guys are
a step slow. It's hard to put your finger on it. We're just

Game notes
Dallas F Jerry Stackhouse missed the game with a sprained
left ankle. Stackhouse, who sprained his ankle in the first quarter
against the Sonics seconds before Nowitzki's injury, is day to day
and should be available for Dallas' next game against the Charlotte
Bobcats on Dec. 26. ... Kaman is sporting shorter hair after
recently having his signature long blond locks trimmed. ... Dallas
had its most lopsided victory of the season. The previous high was
107-80 over Washington on Nov. 21. ... The Clippers had their most
one-sided defeat this season and worst loss ever to the Mavericks.
The Clippers were beaten by San Antonio, 111-82 on Dec. 8.