The Dallas Mavericks scored 42 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from their divisional rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, with a 112-103 victory on Friday. Dirk Nowitzki led the charge by scoring 16 of his team-high 26 points in the final period as the Mavericks gained a three-game lead over the Spurs in the Southwest Division.
"It's a game of runs," said the Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd. "They got theirs. We got ours. We didn't panic. We kept playing and Dirk knocked down some big shots." Tim Duncan powered to 31 points and 12 boards for San Antonio (21-13), who led 80-67 with 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Dallas turned things around once Nowitzki got hot from the outside, leading a 20-5 stretch to give the visitors a 100-92 advantage with less than four minutes to go.
Jason Terry added 21 points and eight assists to help the Mavericks (25-11) improve to 13-6 on the road, the best record in the Western Conference. The Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said: "I thought we played very well for a long time and got to the fourth quarter and Dallas was absolutely fantastic." Meanwhile in other NBA action, LeBron James scored 35 points but the Cleveland Cavaliers went down 99-97 to the Denver Nuggets.
The Eastern Conference leaders were punished for starting off poorly although a strong final quarter nearly paid dividends, but another Nuggets surge put the game beyond the visitors. Washington inflicted a fourth defeat in a row on the Orlando Magic as they ended a difficult few days with a 104-97 victory. The Wizards have been in the spotlight since Gilbert Arenas was given an indefinite suspension without pay earlier this week.
The captain Antawn Jamison apologised to the home crowd at Verizon Centre before the game and addressed a picture of him and his teammates that showed them laughing at Arenas as he pretended to be shooting guns. Jamison said: "This is a serious situation - it's something that we take to heart - and we never meant to make light of the situation. "And we are going to do everything in our power, as long as I'm your captain and as long as these guys right here are my teammates to make this one of the more respectable organisations in the league."
Jamison led the way with 28 points and 11 rebounds. The Boston Celtics are still second, ahead of the Magic, despite a 93-85 defeat by Atlanta with the Hawks fourth. Jamal Crawford scored 18 points for the Hawks with two vital three-pointers in the fourth quarter as they enjoyed a second success over the Celtics this season. Dwyane Wade had 33 points as the Miami Heat held off the Phoenix Suns 109-105.
Andrew Bogut claimed 27 points, 13 rebounds and blocked six shots, as the Milwaukee Bucks edged the Chicago Bulls 96-93. The Los Angeles Lakers suffered their second consecutive defeat when they went down 107-98 to Portland Trailblazers. Kobe Bryant and Portland's Brandon Roy both scored 32 points but the Lakers suffered from a poor start. Chris Bosh gave a stand-out performance for Toronto as the Raptors clinched a narrow 108-106 victory over the Philadelphia Sixers.
Bosh scored 29 points and had nine rebounds and six assists as his side inflicted a fourth home defeat in a row on the Sixers. The New Jersey Nets suffered their fourth consecutive loss as the New Orleans Hornets secured a fifth win in a row, prevailing 103-99. The Hornets squandered a 15-point lead to trail 99-98 before Chris Paul scored with 7.6 seconds left. David West then grabbed a pair of free throws to close out a 32-point individual performance.
* With agencies