OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Sweating out the last month of the playoff chase might be just what the Dallas Mavericks need to regroup for another run at an NBA title.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and former Golden State lottery pick Brandan Wright had 16 points and nine rebounds, leading the Mavericks past the Warriors 112-103 on Thursday night in another unexpectedly tight game for the defending champions.
“We’d rather have this than resting guys,” said Jason Terry, who had 16 points and made some big shots late.
Jason Kidd added 12 assists, 10 rebounds and nine points to pace the Mavericks to a 19-point lead before hanging on late, moving 1 1/2 games behind Memphis for the Western Conference’s fifth playoff seed. The Grizzlies lost 107-97 to San Antonio earlier in the night.
The Mavericks are just a half-game ahead of Denver and Houston and trying to regain that rhythm that propelled them to an improbable title last summer.
“It’s the kind of pressure that you like,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “It brings you to higher levels and we embrace it. We embraced it last year in the playoffs and it got us a ring.”
They’ll take a better seeding, for now, even if it comes in shaky wins against an overmatched opponent.
David Lee had 30 points and eight rebounds and rookie Klay Thompson finished with 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the shorthanded Warriors. Golden State has lost three straight and is already eliminated from playoff contention.
“We, for some reason in the first half, were a step behind on every play defensively, and you could just see it sometimes as a coach and as a player,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.
Dallas survived late behind its usual playmakers.
After the Warriors whittled the deficit to three early in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki returned and took charge. The 7-footer made a difficult fadeaway and backed down defenders for a layup to start an avalanche of offense.
Terry followed by swishing a walk-up 3-pointer in front of the Warriors’ bench. Then Nowitzki passed out of a double-team to find Vince Carter for another 3 and put away Golden State for good.
These Warriors had little chance of a lasting comeback.
Point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) and center Andrew Bogut (fractured left ankle) are likely out for the season. Leading scorer Monta Ellis and forward Ekpe Udoh departed in the trade that netted Bogut from Milwaukee, and Jackson has only a shattered roster remaining to explain why his misguided playoff prediction predictably flopped.
Not until Nate Robinson swished a jumper and a 3-pointer and Brandon Rush dunked to open the fourth did Warriors fans — who still packed Oracle Arena with an announced crowd of 17,929 to cheer a franchise with one playoff appearance since 1994 — get riled up for anything other than next season. The shots sliced Dallas’ lead to 89-86, giving the defending NBA champions a scare.
“It means nothing when you give up 112 points,” Thompson said.
The scare was brief.
The site of another familiar face — a constant theme in these parts — ripping the home team did most of that early.
Wright, drafted eighth overall by the Warriors in 2007, bullied and bruised his way around the paint against Golden State’s undersized frontline. He had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench by halftime, including a pair of dunks.
The Mavericks, who plucked the injury-riddled Wright — traded to New Jersey by the Warriors after 2 1/2 seasons — out of free agency in December, opened the game open behind patches of open space with the forward drawing so much attention. Nowitzki followed with a flurry of jumpers, giving Dallas a 60-41 lead late in the second quarter to take complete control.
“It’s a race to the finish line,” said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who scored 7 points. “Every game counts here on out.”
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