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Dirk's 31 and 11 help Dallas repel Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Give the Dallas defense some credit.

The Mavericks contested every shot, dived for every loose ball
and turned back every Indiana challenge, pulling away in the
closing minutes for an 84-75 victory Tuesday night.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 31 points and 11 rebounds, while
the defense produced season lows by the Pacers, both in scoring and
a miserable 34 percent shooting from the field. Both of those were
also lows for any Dallas opponent this season.

"Our defense starts with our coach working us at it every
day," said the Mavericks' Adrian Griffin, who had a team-high
three steals. "I think you separate yourself from the rest of the
league on the defensive side of the ball. That's what we were
striving for."

The Pacers, playing their first game at home after a five-game
trip out west, cut a 14-point Dallas lead to 75-71 with under 4
minutes remaining.

But Griffin, Nowitzki and Marquis Daniels hit consecutive
baskets for the Mavericks, and after a basket by Indiana's Ron
Artest, Nowitzki put the game out of reach with a 3-pointer with 58
seconds remaining. Sarunas Jasikevicius finished the scoring for
the Pacers with a pair of free throws.

"We never get enough credit for our defense," Mavericks coach
Avery Johnson said. "We've got to do it more consistently."

The Mavericks had 33 defensive rebounds, including all 11 by
Nowitzki. Devin Harris added 15 points and Keith Van Horn had 11
for Dallas. Jermaine O'Neal led Indiana with 25 points and 13
rebounds, and Artest added 15 points and five steals.

The Pacers, appearing tired from their longest road trip of the
season, missed 11 of their first 14 shots and were constantly
beaten to the boards and loose balls.

"I don't believe in excuses," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle
said. "Performance is shared by everybody, including the coaches.
Inconsistency has been a nemesis for us."

Nowitzki had 17 points in the first half, including four in an
8-2 run that put the Mavericks in control midway through the first
quarter. The Pacers, who never led and managed only one tie, went
more than 6 minutes without a field goal and trailed by eight
before the first basket by O'Neal, who missed his first five
attempts.

"We had a lot of guys who struggled, and Dallas was a large
part of that," Carlisle said. "They're a top team, they really
are. ... We didn't have enough answers."

Indiana cut the lead to five points early in the second period,
but a fast-break basket and free throw by Harris and two more free
throws by Van Horn pushed the Mavericks' lead to 33-23.

A late flurry kept Indiana close, but Artest missed two free
throws with less than a second left in the half to keep the Dallas
lead at 46-40 at the break. The Pacers' cold shooting continued in
the third quarter, when they missed their first seven shots. Three
quick baskets by Nowitzki helped give the Mavericks a 54-42 lead.

Dallas took its biggest lead at 71-57 on a 3-pointer by Darrell
Armstrong early in the fourth quarter.

Game notes
The Pacers missed their last 11 3-point attempts. They also
missed 12 free throws, five by Artest. ... Mavericks owner Mark
Cuban sat at the end of the Dallas bench, shouting at the Pacers
and the officials throughout the game. Across the court was Stephen
Hilbert, founder and former chairman of Conseco Inc., for which
Conseco Fieldhouse is named. ... Jason Terry, the second-leading
scorer for Dallas, did not play because of a strained right
hamstring from Monday night's 102-94 victory over Chicago. ...
Rookie Danny Granger made his first start for Indiana and had
career highs with nine points and seven rebounds. ... Dallas had
lost three straight games at Indiana. ... The Mavericks are 11-1
this season when leading after three quarters and 7-0 when Nowitzki
has scored at least 30 points.