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Nowitzki, Mavericks crush hapless Heat

Mar 17, 2008 - 2:14 AM MIAMI (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks seem to enjoy playing against Eastern Conference opponents.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points and Josh Howard added 15 to lead the Dallas Mavericks to their fifth straight victory, 98-73, over the struggling Miami Heat on Sunday.

Brandon Bass and Jason Terry each had 14 points for Dallas, which has won all five games during the run over Eastern Conference opponents by double digits. The average margin of victory is 23.6 points.

"Everybody is talking about everybody else except us," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "We are just working on our game. Whatever happens in the next game and the game after, we still have a shot."

Owning one of the league's best home records at 29-4, Dallas also snapped a three-game road losing streak and improved its record to 15-19 away from home.

Dallas scored the game's first nine points and held a 19-2 lead with 6:45 left in the first quarter.

"The beginning of the game, it was like we were stuck in mud," Heat coach Pat Riley said.

The Mavericks pushed the advantage to 26-4 and led by at least 17 points for the rest of the game. Nowitzki had 10 of the first 26 points for the visitors.

"We've done a really nice job in the past four games of coming out strong and setting the tone defensively, and on offense, getting the ball in (Jason) Kidd's hands and let him push the ball to find the open guys and making shots," Johnson said.

Dallas led, 35-12, after the first quarter and built its lead up to as many as 84-51 on a Terry 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter.

Despite the winning streak, Dallas remains 2 1/2 games behind Houston (46-20) in fourth place in the competitive Southwest Division.

"Things could change quite a bit in the Western Conference over the next week to 10 days," Johnson said.

No player was on the floor for more than 27 minutes for the Mavericks, who Dallas shot 51 percent (38-of-75) from the floor.

Earl Barron scored a career-high 21 points for Miami, which played without Shawn Marion (back) en route to its eighth straight defeat.

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