for this game

Nowitzki carries Mavs past struggling Kings 99-91

Jan 3, 2010 - 6:49 AM SACRAMENTO, Calif.(AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks had no intention of taking the Sacramento Kings lightly with a matchup against the defending champion Lakers looming the next day.

There was no peeking ahead for the Mavericks, who played persistent defense and used Dirk Nowitzki's 25 points to defeat the struggling Kings 99-91 on Saturday night.

Although Sacramento had the NBA's worst record a year agoand featuresone of the league's youngest teams this season, the Kings have been tough at home. Recent overtime losses at home to Cleveland and the Lakers have temporarily halted the Kings' success, but the Mavericks were taking nothing for granted.

The Mavericks, who play the Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday night, used a 13-0 run in the second quarter to take command and never trailed again in improving to a Western Conference-best 12-5 at home.

"I'm a veteran player, I know you never look ahead in this league," Mavs forward Shawn Marion said.

A consistent scorer throughout his 11-year career, Nowitzki averaged only 14.7 points in the previous three games. The NBA's seventh leading scorer with a 25-point average, Nowitzki scored 11 and 13 in his previous two contests. The last time he had 13 or fewer points in three straight games was the final two of 1998-99 and the first one of the following season.

Against the Kings, he made 8 of 18 shots, hit all nine free throws, and added seven rebounds. Nowitzki and Jason Kidd both scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help hold off the Kings.

Leading by 10 points, Nowitzki went on his own 6-0 run, making a pair of jumpers and hitting two free throws to put the Mavericks in front 93-76 with 3:39 remaining.

"We all know who we're going to in crunch time - Dirk," said Josh Howard, who had 16 points. "He's still the go-to guy here, but we have a lot of other good players on this team that know their role."

Jose Barea scored 17 points and Kidd added 14 points and seven assists for Dallas, which has won three of four.

Omri Casspie scored 22 points and had a career-high 11 rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped three straight and five of six overall. Jason Thompson bounced back from a scoreless game Friday against the Lakers with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Sacramento lost to the Lakers by one point when Kobe Bryant hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"It was tough physically and emotionally," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "And on top of that our opponent is a great team whose sitting here waiting for us (last night) and they played like they play. They're a very complete team at both ends of the floor."

A solid defensive team, the Mavericks were the first team to hold the Kings under 100 points in the last 12 home games. Sacramento shot 40 percent and committed 18 turnovers.

The Kings ran off 11 straight points to pull to 93-87 on Donte Greene's 3-pointer with 30.1 seconds left. Howard, Jason Terry and Nowitzki all made two free throws in the final 29 seconds to help seal the victory.

After missing the previous three games with an ankle injury, rookie Tyreke Evans started slow, missing six of seven shots, then got going late in the second quarter. Playing a bit tentative offensively, he shot 6 of 18 overall and had 14 points and six rebounds.

"I knew I wasn't going to come back and play at my same pace," Evans said. "I just tried to go out there and play my game and take shots if I was open. Hopefully the next game I can be more effective and get the rust off."

Kidd scored eight points and Nowitzki had six in the third quarter when the Mavericks built the lead to 13 points and went into the fourth ahead 77-67.

Taking advantage of several Sacramento miscues, which they turned into lay-ups at the other end, the Mavericks reeled off 13 straight points in the second quarter. Barea scored 13 points and Nowitzki had 11 for the Mavericks. Thompson had 13 points for the Kings and Casspi added 11.

NOTES: Kidd made his first six shots before missing a 3-point attempt late in the third quarter, his only miss of the game. ... Kevin Martin, who averaged 30.6 points the first five games of the season for the Kings, has missed the past 28 games with a broken wrist. There is still no date for his return, which is expected sometime this month. ... Westphal spent two seasons in the Mavericks organization, serving as executive vice president of basketball operations last year.