Butler powers Wizards over MavericksJan 21, 2008 - 11:36 PM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
WASHINGTON (Ticker) - The Washington Wizards think they established themselves as an upper-echelon NBA team after completing their first season sweep of the Dallas Mavericks in 11 years on Monday.
Caron Butler had 25 points and nine rebounds as the Wizards posted a convincing 102-84 victory over the Mavericks, who were held 17 points below their season average.
Antawn Jamison added 23 points and eight rebounds for Washington, which has won seven of its last nine contests and moved five games over .500 for the first time this season (22-17).
Josh Howard had 32 points and seven rebounds and Dirk Nowitzki added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks.
But Dallas was unable to slow down the Wizards, who became only the fourth team in 19 to eclipse the century mark against the Mavericks.
The Wizards, who posted two wins over the league-leading Boston Celtics last week, hope they have silenced their doubters.
"That we're pretty much legit," Jamison said when asked what kind of message the three victories send to others around the NBA.
"This is a team that has beat some perennially quality teams. At first, we beat the teams that we were supposed to beat - teams that didn't have winning records. Now we've shown that we can beat the upper-echelon teams also."
Washington forced 16 Dallas turnovers that led to 25 points for the Wizards, who had 11 steals and five blocks while matching their season low with eight turnovers.
The Wizards also held their opponent under 100 points for the ninth time in the last 10 games.
"We're into a pretty good rhythm on both ends of the floor," Jamison added. "We're playing unselfish basketball and pulling for each other. Things are really clicking right now.
"We feel that no matter who we play, we have a good chance to win the game if we do the things that we need to do. The guys are really confident right now."
DeShawn Stevenson contributed 18 points for the Wizards, making four 3-pointers.
"It's not a fluke to beat Boston two times in a row and it's not a fluke to beat Dallas on their court and come in and beat them here," Stevenson said. "Obviously, we've got good guys here and we just have to keep it going."
Butler has keyed the recent surge, scoring at least 20 points in four straight games - a stretch in which the Wizards have gone 3-1.
"It just shows we're a real quality team and we're playing exceptional basketball right now," Butler said. "But it's over and we've got another challenge ahead of us. We've got to come in and get prepared for Cleveland, make the trip down there and get right back at it (on Wednesday)."
Stevenson hit a 3-pointer with 4:05 remaining that gave the Wizards an 89-76 lead and put the game out of reach.
Antonio Daniels chipped in with 13 points and six assists for the Wizards, who are five games over .500 for the first time since they were 39-34 after 73 contests last season.
Jamison scored six points and Butler added four as the Wizards took control with a 12-2 run to grab a 69-58 lead late in the third quarter. Antonio Daniels' two free throws capped the spurt with 1:47 remaining in the period.
"The key to our success has always been the offense, over the past couple of years, but now it's the defense," Butler said. "To win big games and get quality wins, you've got to play good defense and rebound the basketball, and we're doing both."
After three quarters, the Wizards led 73-60. Howard's baseline drive over Andray Blatche, who fouled him on the play, pulled the Mavericks within 79-70.
Howard, however, missed the free throw and Dallas never seriously threatened down the stretch.
"We tried to keep hanging on down the stretch," Nowitzki said. "We made some shots and tried to get the fast break going, but we could never make a run. They made some incredible shots."
Rookie Nick Young gave Washington a lift with seven of his nine points off the bench in the second quarter.
"They are playing well," Nowitzki added. "They spread the floor well and have a lot of good shooters. They have gotten a lot better defensively and they try to do all the right things. They tried harder than us. They are definitely one of the best teams in the East."
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