for this game

Nelson keys Magic over reeling Mavericks

Nov 15, 2008 - 5:56 AM By John Tranchina PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DALLAS (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks found yet another way to lose on Friday.

The perennial Western Conference power blew a late lead, committed a key turnover with seconds left on the clock and Jason Terry missed a game-tying attempt before the buzzer as the Orlando Magic escaped with a 102-100 triumph.

Rashard Lewis scored 23 points, including two critical free throws with 10.9 seconds remaining, to lead the Magic back for the victory.

"I told our guys I was really proud of them tonight," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Because you look at the numbers and we didn't do much very well. We shot under 40 percent, 36 percent from three, we got outrebounded, but what we did great is that we just hung in there and kept fighting and we made some plays at the end."

For the third consecutive game, Dallas coughed up a double-digit lead en route to its fifth straight loss.

"When you're this close to winning, you've just got to draw a line in the sand and decide to get over the hump somehow," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We were just about there and it just didn't happen. I thought we played well and battled and all that, but there's no moral victory after this."

After falling behind, 101-100, with 11 seconds to play, the Mavericks had a chance to take the lead. But Josh Howard's inbounds pass was intercepted by Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who drew a foul and knocked down 1-of-2 from the line.

"I was surprised the ball came to me," Nelson said. "I looked around and I just thought, I didn't know what to do, I just started dribbling it out. He gave me the ball, I appreciated the gift."

"It was a tough play, something we can correct," Howard said. "We fought hard throughout the whole game and that's what we've got to base this on. It's just a matter of time. We're a great team, we've got the same core team, I've been saying all year, that was in the Finals three years ago, so we got to stay positive and just keep playing."

Following a timeout, Terry took Nelson off the dribble and got off a good shot, but it clanked off the back of the rim as the Mavericks remained winless at home.

Nelson scored 21 points for the Magic, including nine in the fourth quarter, while Mickael Pietrus added 20 and it was his hot shooting that keyed the team's late surge. He tied the game at 96-96 with a 3-pointer at the 2:32 mark of the fourth and snapped a 96-96 tie 90 seconds later, setting off a frantic final minute of play.

"I feel very comfortable taking that shot," said Pietrus, who was 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and scored 20 points overall. "Coach is always telling us to find an open man and he was looking for me. I knew I had to shoot it."

The Mavericks regained the lead on Dirk Nowitzki's turnaround fade-away with 26 seconds on the clock, but Lewis answered with a pair of free throws and Nelson's steal helped seal it.

"Gotta make both of them," Lewis said of his mindset at the foul line. "I had a lot of confidence when they had the ball and the main point was that we needed as much a lead as possible. When Jameer missed that free throw, I was a little nervous, because the Dallas Mavericks are capable of doing anything."

Orlando, which rallied from an eight-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter, won for the sixth time in its last seven contests and for the first time in Dallas in 11 visits dating to 1997. Dwight Howard registered another double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Nowitzki rebounded from two sub-par efforts to score 24 points. After managing to score a combined 26 in losses to the Bulls and Lakers earlier this week, Nowitzki came out fired up, pouring in 17 by halftime.

Dallas held a comfortable, 11-point lead after Terry nailed a 3-pointer 25 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Orlando stormed back with eight straight points - five by Nelson - to pull to within 83-80 two minutes later.

Dallas stretched its lead back into the six-point range and when Josh Howard hit two free throws with 5:15 remaining. Dallas led 94-88, but the Magic continued to drive to the basket, and staged an 8-0 run, finally taking the lead on Nelson's lay-in with 2:31 to play.

"We just kept our composure and shot the shots that were given to us through the course of the game," Nelson said.

After Howard fouled Jason Kidd, the veteran point guard connected on two free throws to bring the Mavs to within one, and Nelson followed with a miss on the other end. Nowitzki snagged the rebound, headed up court, and hit a spin-around fade-away jumper to put Dallas up, 100-99.

The Mavs appeared to be in good shape when Nelson missed another shot and Terry snagged the rebound, but he stepped out of bounds, giving the ball back to Orlando with 14.8 seconds left. Kidd then ended up fouling Lewis with 10.9 seconds to go, and Lewis hit both free throws to put the Magic up by one. The Mavericks couldn't take the lead back.

"I guess once you're in a funk, everything seems to go against you," Nowitzki said. "It's tough. We were right there again today, we were up by one, we had the rebound, unfortunately (Terry) stepped out of bounds and gave them another chance. We had enough chances at the end to tie it, threw the ball away. We just didn't execute great down the stretch."

For the second consecutive game, the Mavericks started off the game on a roll, jumping out to a quick 11-3 lead in the contest's opening four-and-a-half minutes before the Magic closed the gap. Dallas bolted out to a 25-6 early edge against Chicago Thursday night, but saw it evaporate by halftime en route to a 98-91 loss.

The Mavericks used a 13-0 run to take a 38-27 lead in the second quarter, and they maintained about a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter before breaking down yet again.

"We were right there," Carlisle said. "We got in foul trouble, we had some other things, but still we were a rebound away and a shot away. There's not a whole lot else to say. I know the team is disappointed."