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Nowitzki leads Mavs to 13th straight win

Jan 6, 2007 - 5:59 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki helped the Dallas Mavericks roll a lucky 13.

Nowitzki scored a season-high 36 points and the Mavericks made the clutch plays down the stretch en route to their 13th straight win, a 90-85 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs.

Josh Howard contributed 18 points for the Mavs, who won for the second time in as many tries on the Spurs' home floor this season. Dallas also won Game Seven here in last season's classic Western Conference semifinal series.

Nowitzki was the one who made sure the Mavs would continue their winning ways. The German superstar made 14-of-23 shots in 41 dynamic minutes.

"The team was able to capitalize on the big plays which helped us take over the momentum of the game," Nowitzki said.

In a fourth quarter that featured seven lead changes, Nowitzki made a number of big shots, including a tough fadeaway from the left side with 40 seconds left that gave Dallas an 88-84 lead.

"Dirk is a warrior," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "He guarded Tim Duncan very well tonight. In my opinion Dirk never gets enough credit and hopefully that will change soon. Dirk is definitely a player who lets his game do all the talking."

After Tim Duncan split a pair of free throws eight seconds later to pull the Spurs within 88-85, Nowitzki made an errant pass on the Mavs' ensuing possession.

Following a timeout, Manu Ginobili drove to the basket and set up Bruce Bowen for a wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner. But Bowen's shot clanged off the rim, and Howard grabbed the rebound and made two free throws with six-tenths of a second left to seal things.

Nowitzki and Howard were the only players to score in double figures for the Mavs, who are 27-3 following an 0-4 start. Dallas also had a 12-game winning streak earlier this season.

Ginobili scored 25 points and Duncan had 18 for the Spurs (23-11), who have lost a season-high three games to fall four behind the Mavs in the Southwest Division.

"We never panic," said Duncan, who made just 6-of-13 free throws. "There's always time to panic. We are 34 games into the season. You have to go through ups and downs in a season to build a team and build character in a team. This is our down time and hopefully we could cut it off at this."

"We needed it badly, but we just couldn't take it," Ginobili said. "We just have to give them credit and realize that we have to improve a lot. The good thing is the season is young still. We have long way to go so we have a big challenge here."

Fabricio Oberto made all seven of his shots and scored 14 points in the first half, helping the Spurs build a 51-40 lead. However, he went scoreless in the second half, failing to attempt a shot.

Howard scored nine points in the third quarter and Nowitzki eight as the Mavs closed to 69-66 entering the final period.

"Tonight the first half killed us," Howard said. "We fought our way into the second half and finally got things together. Coach Johnson has a lot of trust in this team and I think tonight we earned a little more."