<
>

Mavericks have no problem sweeping Rockets

2/22/2003

HOUSTON (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki took care of the scoring and Shawn
Bradley took care of Yao Ming.

Nowitzki had 34 points and 11 rebounds and led a 14-2
second-quarter spurt as the Dallas Mavericks completed a season
sweep of the Houston Rockets, 100-85 Friday night.

Dallas won its fifth straight game and beat the Rockets for the
fourth time this season.

"We always try to be the aggressor,'' Nowitzki said. "When
you're the aggressor every night you're going to get breaks. It's a
good shooting building. I've always liked to come here and play.
There are always a lot of Mavs fans. It's a lot of fun.''

While Nowitzki had his team leading 26th double-double, Bradley
came off the bench for 12 points, seven rebounds and six blocks.

Yao scored 18 points, including 15 in the second half.

"We were able to get a lead and keep it,'' Bradley said. "He
(Yao) got his points, but he didn't get them until the end of the
game when we had a good lead and the game was over.

"We knew we had to step up defensively. We couldn't give them a
lead and hope to come back.''

The Mavericks were coming off a victory over the San Antonio
Spurs on Thursday night.

"It was a tough win yesterday and we wanted it to carry over,''
Nowitzki said. "In the beginning, we were turning the ball over
and weren't shooting very well. But once we got our offense going,
we were OK.''

The Mavericks used their spurt late in the second quarter to
take a 49-45 halftime lead, and they kept up the pace in the third
quarter with a 20-12 run, building a 69-57 lead with 4:09 left in
the period. Dallas took a 75-66 lead into the fourth quarter.

"This is something for me to learn from,'' Yao said of the
7-foot-6 Bradley. "I don't get many opportunities to play against
anyone as tall as me. I thought the second half, I played OK but
the first half I played very poorly.''

Steve Nash shot 6-for-6 and scored 14 for Dallas, and Nick Van
Exel added 13 points and seven assists off the bench.

Steve Francis led Houston with 19 points.

Rockets were leading 43-35 before Dallas started its 14-2 run
with Nowitzki hitting four baskets in a row to tie it at 43-43.
Shawn Bradley had two free throws to put Dallas ahead for good, and
Avery Johnson hit a basket at the buzzer for Dallas' halftime lead.

Nowitzki scored 10 points in the run.

"Nowitzki feels comfortable anywhere on the floor,'' Rockets
coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "There's no place where he's a low
percentage player.

The Rockets came out running in the first quarter and used a
15-2 charge to take a 30-23 lead.

The Rockets shot 60 percent from the field in the first quarter
but hit only 28 percent the rest of the game.

"I liked a lot of the shots we had,'' Tomjanovich said. "We
didn't get a high percentage inside like we usually do and Bradley
had something to do with that. They didn't have to double-team us,
and then we missed some good ones.''

Game notes
Dallas had never swept the Rockets before. Houston still
has a 69-44 all-time record against the Mavericks. ... Francis
celebrated his 26th birthday . ... Houston is 3-11 in the first
night of back-to-backs and 9-4 on the second night. ... Francis got
approval to play prior to the game despite lower back pain that
hampered him in practice Thursday. ... Nowitzki played with a
sprained ankle.