for this game

Nowitzki wins All-Star battle as Mavericks upend Magic

Feb 3, 2009 - 4:31 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks might like to make Florida a regular vacation spot. They certainly turned this weekend's trip into a much-needed vacation.

While the weather outside may not have lived up to the "Sunshine State" billing, the Mavs caught fire on Monday night, rolling over the Orlando Magic, 105-95, to finish off a challenging, two-game trip through Florida in style.

Dallas traveled to Miami and upended the Heat on Saturday, then followed that win up with an even more impressive performance two nights later. The Mavericks stormed ahead in the third quarter, turning a close ballgame into a rout before Orlando made a late comeback that ultimately fell short.

"We are trying to go to the playoffs so you have to get some consistency at some point," Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "It normally starts defensively for us. If we play solidly defensively, we will be all right. We can run if we get some stops, get the ball in (Jason) Kidd's hands, and we feel we have enough weapons offensively."

Nursing a five-point edge early in the third, the Mavericks staged a 9-2 run to extend their lead into double digits. The burgeoning Kidd-Nowitzki connection came up big - in reverse, this time - as the one-time MVP forward found his veteran point guard for a crucial 3-pointer to cap the spurt and put Dallas up, 65-53.

"It was simple," Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We couldn't stop them and we couldn't score."

Nowitzki finished with 29 points and Kidd added 13, eight assists and four steals for the Mavericks' offense, which shot 53 percent (39-of-73). Jason Terry added 21 points off the bench.

"Our energy's been better in the last week with some practice time and there's been kind of a re-commitment to each other," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're trying to make the most of this stretch before the All-Star break."

The Mavericks pushed their lead to as many as 20 in the final session, as Nowitzki knocked down a pair of long jumpers to keep the momentum going, followed by back-to-back 3-pointers from Jose Juan Barea and Terry to make it an 87-67 game.

"We're attacking at both ends," Carlisle said. "Our aggression defensively has been better the last three games and offensively we're doing a better job of reading situations."

But even without All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson - who left with a dislocated right shoulder early in the third period, just before Dallas made its run - the Magic pushed back, largely on the broad shoulders of superstar center Dwight Howard.

The 23-year-old big man answered Dallas' clutch shooting with a trio of three-point plays in a three-minute span in the fourth, enforcing his will on the offensive end to put a scare into the Mavericks and cut the deficit to 93-79.

"Dwight was amazing today and really got them going early," Nowitzki said. "He got a couple of hook shots in the lane to go. Overall defensively, I think the job we did on everyone else is what won us the game. Dwight dominated us on the inside, but they were cold from the 3-point line."

Howard finally got some help down the stretch, as Rashard Lewis connected from the arc and Hedo Turkoglu completed a three-point play inside to pull within 99-90.

Courtney Lee's 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining sliced Orlando's deficit to just eight, but by then the game was all but decided. That wasn't for lack of effort on the part of Howard, who finished with 35 points and 11 boards - hitting 9-of-12 from the foul line - for his NBA-leading 37th double-double.

"Everybody had a miserable night expect Dwight until the very end when they started making shots, but the game was practically over then," Van Gundy said.

Orlando, the league's top 3-point shooting team, was just 3-of-20 from the arc in this one as it fell at home for just the fifth time this season. The Mavericks, meanwhile, won their third straight and improved to 13-6 against the East this season.