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Nowitzki, Mavericks overshadow James' monster fourth quarter

Mar 22, 2007 - 4:52 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- LeBron James was all alone in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki had some help.

James scored 17 of his 31 points in the final period but Nowitzki netted 23 to lead five players in double figures as the Dallas Mavericks posted a 98-90 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jason Terry scored 21 points and Devin Harris added 17 for the Mavericks, who have won four straight games since a rare two-game skid. Dallas won at New York on Tuesday and carried over the momentum.

"We take pride in winning on back-to-back nights," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "We had our poor showing at Golden State (March 12), and these men came out and accepted the challenge. (Cleveland) knows we are a little shorthanded at the two and three spots, without (Greg) Buckner and (Devean) George, but we played a pretty solid game from start to finish."

Dallas (56-11) now is five games in front of idle Phoenix (51-16) for the top spot in the Western Conference and the NBA's best record.

"It's not really about who we are playing or who we are facing, it's more about us getting ourselves ready," Nowitzki said. "We've got another month left before hopefully we'll begin another great, long playoff run. We are just trying to get ready for it."

After Harris banked in a 3-pointer to make it 79-66 entering the fourth quarter, James single-handedly brought the Cavaliers back. The superstar forward scored each point in an 11-4 run to make it 83-77 with 7:08 left.

"There's nobody in the league can guard James," Johnson said. "It's just incredible to have a front row seat and see what this young man is doing at such a young age. In the fourth quarter, we gave (James) a man-to-man trap look and a zone-trap look, we just wanted at that point for somebody else to score."

The Mavericks then went on an 8-3 run to take control, capped by Nowitzki's fadeaway jumper to make it 91-80 with four minutes remaining. The 7-0 sharpshooter had five points during the burst.

"Our defense really won us the game, holding them to 40 percent shooting, trying to make it tough on LeBron," Nowitzki said. "Obviously, he's still going to get his numbers just because he's a great player, but I thought we made him take some tough shots."

Nowitzki was just 9-of-24 from the field, but Terry and Harris combined to shoot 16-of-27, including 3-of-6 from the arc.

"I had a rough shooting night," Nowitzki said. "I thought I had a lot of good looks, especially from three. It was a great team effort. We had a bunch of guys in double digits."

Drew Gooden had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Cavaliers, who have lost two straight after a season-high eight-game winning streak.

"This (loss) doesn't take away from what we've done," James said. "If we're going to be a great team, we have to realize where our mistakes have been the last two games and come in and take care of business, take care of home court against the Knicks on Friday."

James, who shot 12-of-28 from the field, suffered a bad fall, and later, was elbowed in the face by Nowitzki - drawing an offensive foul.

"I'm definitely not feeling 100 percent," James said. "I took two dangerous hits today. Hopefully the day off (Thursday) will help me recover and get ready for Friday. I'll be ready Friday."

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    RUWTbot Added 21 roots

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  • mark ooo, bron bron took a nasty fall.

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