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Pro Basketball

Hot Mavericks Too Much for Clippers, Scoreboard

Pro basketball: Dallas turns on the jets and runs away with a 133-112 victory that ends L.A.'s home winning streak.

January 27, 2002|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dallas Mavericks fly so far under the average NBA fan's radar that about all anyone seems to know about them is that their owner often acts like a juvenile delinquent.

What a pity.

Mark Cuban's headline-grabbing antics notwithstanding, he has built a team that is every bit as entertaining as it is difficult to beat. Ask the Clippers, who made 14 of 18 shots (77.8%) in the third quarter, and were still thumped Saturday by the Mavericks, 133-112, before a disbelieving sellout crowd of 19,311 at Staples Center.

Dallas used a late 20-0 run to win its seventh in a row and 12th consecutive over the Clippers. The Mavericks also ended the Clippers' home winning streak at five and sent them out on the road for a season-high seven-game trip with an empty feeling.

What more could the Clippers have done?

Well, they could have played something resembling NBA-caliber defense.

But the Mavericks had something to do with it, making 49 of 85 shots (57.6%). Four players scored 20 points or more for Dallas, led by Dirk Nowitzki's 28.

The Mavericks' total of 133 points was the most the Clippers have given up this season.

"We thought we were in the old ABA," Dallas Coach Don Nelson said, referring to the late, great American Basketball Assn., which thrived on dunking and three-point shooting. "This was a fun game. What a shootout. ...

"This is just an incredible team. They are really fun to coach. I don't even want a day off the way we are playing.

"The coach has no complaints about anything."

Quentin Richardson led the Clippers with a career-best 31 points, including a franchise-record tying seven three-point baskets. The Clippers shot 51.2% and made 14 three-pointers, tying another club mark.

Cuban enjoyed it all from a courtside seat, quiet as a mouse.

For once, the focus was all on the Mavericks on the court.

"What can you say?" Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry said with a chuckle at game's end. "I wasn't discouraged by the way we played. I was discouraged by the way they played. What do you do with Nowitzki? We tried everything we could think of. We gave a great effort, especially in the third quarter. Everything we tried, they had an answer for, starting with Nowitzki."

The Clippers erased a 12-point halftime deficit by late in the third quarter, surging into a 95-94 lead after one of Richardson's three-pointers inside the final minute. But Nowitzki countered with a jump shot and a free throw after he was fouled for a 97-95 lead with 32.1 seconds remaining.

"They are definitely one of the top teams in the league, and they don't even have Michael Finley," Richardson said, referring to the Maverick guard, who is on the injured list because of a strained left hamstring.

Like everyone else at Staples Center, Richardson marveled at Nowitzki.

"He's a great player," Richardson said. "He's come a long way. He's 7 feet tall and shoots like that. What can you say?"

The Clippers faced a double-digit deficit by halftime for the second consecutive game. Unlike Wednesday's 14-point deficit against the Lakers--a game they would win by five--the Clippers seemed to be playing well Saturday in some areas.

They made 23 of 42 shots, including six of 11 three-point tries. They also had 58 points by halftime, which beat the 35 they had against the Lakers.

Trouble was, the Clippers failed to guard anyone in a blue-on-blue uniform Saturday. They also refused to block out anyone with the word "Dallas" written across his jersey. So, the Clippers trailed, 70-58, at the half.

Matchup problems cropped up all over the court, which was not unexpected.

Elton Brand couldn't check Nowitzki, Dallas' roving 7-footer who had 17 points at the break. Juwan Howard created problems closer to the basket for the Clippers, adding 17 points on seven of 11 shooting and three of three free throws.

Toughest for Gentry to stomach at halftime was the Mavericks' 21-8 rebounding advantage. The Clippers' inability to block out resulted in eight offensive rebounds for Dallas. As a result, Dallas had 14 second-chance points to only five for the Clippers.

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