for this game

Surging Mavericks hold off Hawks

Dec 7, 2008 - 5:49 AM By John Tranchina PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DALLAS (Ticker) -- It seems like the Dallas Mavericks have discovered a new secret weapon hiding on their own bench.

Jose Juan Barea set a new season high in points for the third straight game, collecting 22, while Dirk Nowitzki added 24, as the Mavericks held on for their ninth victory in their last 10 games, 100-98, over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

Barea, making just his second start of the season, added four assists as he dominated the floor, driving the lane at will. He scored 14 in the third quarter alone, when Dallas outscored the Hawks, 33-16, to break open what had been a close game.

"My teammates are showing a lot of confidence in me," Barea said. "They are telling me things that are making me a lot better. I just want to go out there and do my best every night."

"The thing I like about Barea is his decision-making has continued to improve since training camp," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He made a lot of good things happen tonight. I'm always a believer that anything is possible. Would I have predicted (his success)? No. Am I shocked? No. Or should I say, absolutely not."

The Mavericks, who opened the season 2-7 and lost their first four home games, also got 19 points off the bench from Jason Terry and have now won five straight on their home court.

"We've seen him do it in practice and they rewarded him with a nice contract," Terry said of Barea's recent heroics. "He's playing up to expectations. He has to keep his confidence and stay consistent because we need him."

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Hawks, who launched a stunning comeback attempt, nearly rallying from a 19-point fourth quarter deficit, but fell just short to drop six of their last seven road contests.

"We made plays coming down the stretch to get back in it," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "But we had that dry 16-point third quarter that just put us behind and you can't spot this team. They're too good for that. But we still had our chances. We can't put ourselves in that position and expect to come back."

Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 32 points, including 13 in the final quarter, while Mike Bibby added 21, with 14 coming in the final period.

"We showed a lot of pride towards the end in coming back, but we definitely wanted the 'W'," Johnson said. "We're supposed to play like that, it kind of hurts that it took so long for it to click in."

"We just kept playing," Bibby said. "We just can't wait that long to play that way to get into the game. Basketball is a long game, and it's a game of runs. They had runs and you can have runs, so it goes back and forth. We just waited too long to get ours."

Dallas led 88-71 with 5:15 left when Nowitzki sank one from 15 feet out, but Atlanta scored 11 straight points over the next two minutes to edge to within six.

Terry hit consecutive shots from the left side of the basket to restore a 10-point Dallas lead with 1:54 to play, but the Hawks kept coming, using an 8-0 run to edge to within 94-92 with 44.2 seconds remaining on Bibby's fast-break layup.

After Brandon Bass hit a layup with 26.8 seconds left, Bibby sank a 3-pointer with 23 seconds to go to pull to within 96-95. But Terry connected on two free throws and then Johnson's 3-point attempt clanked off the rim with five seconds remaining.

Jason Kidd retrieved the rebound and fed Bass for another fast-break layup with 3.7 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

"We didn't lose our composure," Terry said. "We got a couple good stops and some runouts for baskets. We got another win. We're disappointed with the way we finished but we're excited about the way we played for 45 minutes. You've got to take it."

"It's a big win, especially when we had the game in hand and let them back in," Kidd said. "They're a talented group and didn't stop playing. But we didn't lose our composure. It's all about winning. Blowouts, by one point, beautiful, ugly, however you want to paint them."

Early in the third quarter, Dallas used a 9-0 run to build the game's biggest lead to that point, 52-45, following Barea's free-throw 4:02 in. The Mavericks continued to gradually increase their edge, and finally went on a 11-2 run over the final two and a half minutes of the quarter to claim a commanding 74-59 advantage going into the fourth.

"We kind of slacked off a little," Bibby said of the third quarter. "They had their run and we weren't able to bounce back from it until seven, six, five minutes left in the fourth. It was way too long to wait to really get it going."

Dallas continued to roll early in the final frame as they went on a 8-2 run over the first three minutes to amass a 19-point lead, leading to their almost-collapse.

"We did a good job for 43 minutes," Carlisle said. "We made some mistakes when it was a 16-point game that led to the run. I would tell you that it's an unbelievably important lesson, and a lesson I'd rather learn having won than lost. But the players know that the things that went on down the stretch are things that can't happen."

Dallas played its eighth straight contest without forward Josh Howard, who continues to be listed as day to day with a left ankle injury.

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