NEW YORK (AP) – Given how much a healthy Dirk Nowitzki means to the Dallas Mavericks, his coach thinks he should be the MVP.
The way the Mavericks are rolling again, maybe they can get the big German the hardware he really wants.
Nowitzki had 29 points and 11 rebounds, and the Mavericks seized control in the third quarter before beating the New York Knicks 113-97 on Wednesday night for their sixth straight victory.
The Mavericks, who got off to a superb start before Nowitzki sprained his knee in late December, are back within a half-game of second place in the Western Conference.
“I think our defense has been going back to where we were in November-December,” Nowitzki said. “I think if you look at our effort defensively in the second half, that’s what won us the game.”
Jose Barea added 22 points and Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 11 boards for the Mavericks, who outscored the Knicks 26-6 to open the second half and went on to their fifth consecutive win in New York.
This one wasn’t as dominant as the Mavs’ 128-78 rout on Jan 24, 2010, their most lopsided win ever and the Knicks’ worst loss on their home floor. But Dallas was just as impressive in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the third quarter en route to its 16th win in the past 18 meetings overall.
“Great third quarter,” reserve guard Jason Terry said.
Danilo Gallinari scored 27 points and Amare Stoudemire finished with 21, but missed all five shots in a scoreless second half before leaving for good as the Knicks went deep into their bench.
“The shots were good looks,” Stoudemire said. “There are just some nights like this where you miss your shots, but I think collectively in the second half, we just didn’t come out with good energy.”
Playing without starting forward Wilson Chandler for the third straight game because of a sore left calf, the Knicks missed 26-of-36 shots over a nearly 20-minute span bridging the second and third quarters. Toney Douglas had 22 points off the bench, but starting guards Raymond Felton and Landry Fields were a combined 6 of 25.
“I thought we ran out of steam for whatever reason,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We ran out of good plays.”
Nowitzki missed nine games, with Dallas losing seven of them, and struggled a bit when he returned. He was 10 of 16 Wednesday and the Mavs made 50 percent of their shots.
“I think when 41 is out on the floor, just his presence, no matter if he’s 50 percent or a hundred percent, he draws so much attention,” point guard Jason Kidd said, “and we’ve got guys who are shooting the ball extremely well from behind the arc and it just opens up the whole court.”
Leading by four at halftime, Dallas opened the third with a 15-4 burst, with Nowitzki’s 3-pointer making it 71-56 not long after Stoudemire botched a dunk. A basket by Shawne Williams briefly halted the Mavs’ momentum, but Kidd made a 3-pointer, Barea converted a three-point play, Tyson Chandler dunked and DeShawn Stevenson nailed a 3-pointer to make it 82-58 with 4:27 left.
The Mavs also lost starter Caron Butler for the season during their bad stretch. But they believe they can make up for the lost offense if they defend as they did during their 24-5 start.
“With the injuries, we got away from that,” Chandler said. “We started focusing too much on offense and how we can make up for Caron and Dirk being out. Not only could we not make up for the offense, but we stopped on the defensive end. Now that we got guys back healthy, we’re starting to come back to our roots.”
The Knicks, who missed 11 of 14 to start the period, cut it to 82-71, but never got within single digits before the Mavs used another burst midway through the fourth quarter to put it away.
Stevenson scored 13 points, Terry had 12, and Kidd finished with 10 assists.
The Mavericks made seven of their first eight shots, but the Knicks controlled the rest of the first quarter, shooting 56 percent and surging to a 34-27 lead. Dallas picked up its defense in the second, limiting New York to 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting and taking a 56-52 lead.
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