Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and 11 rebounds and Steve Nash added 17 points as the Mavericks moved within a game of matching the most wins in franchise history with a 95-86 victory over the Hornets on Tuesday night.
The Mavericks, a league-best 56-18 with eight games left, maintained their two-game lead over the Spurs in the Midwest Division. Those teams will meet in San Antonio on April 16 in Dallas’ final game of the regular season. San Antonio holds a 2-1 lead in the season series and currently has league’s longest current winning streak—six games.
“I’d rather be up five or six games, but we’re not,” Nowitzki said. “We have to let it all out there and put the pedal to the metal for the last eight games.”
Dallas, the league leader in 3-pointers made and attempted, got the easy win despite going 1-for-5 from behind the arc. The Mavericks had their season low for 3-point tries and matched their fewest 3-pointers made this season.
Dallas went extensively with zone defenses in the second half and limited Mashburn, the Hornets’ leading scorer, to 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
“When they play that zone, it’s tough,” said Mashburn, who was held to eight points in the teams’ other meeting on Dec. 26. “Everywhere I went, someone was there.”
Nowitzki and Nash carried the Mavericks in the third quarter, which ended with Dallas in front, 75-62. Nowitzki had 11 points in the quarter and Nash added six to prevent the Hornets from getting any closer than five.
“It was like pulling teeth, but I’d look up and we’d have leads,” Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. “I don’t think we were playing that well but I guess they can make you look that way. We’ll take it.”
Dallas went on to lead by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter, cruising to its fifth victory in six games.
“Overall we did a good job tonight,” Nash said. “We let them get close a couple of times but we buckled down.”
Mavericks swingman Michael Finley, the team’s second leading scorer at 19.7, missed his seventh straight game due to a strained left hamstring. Finley is expected to practice on Wednesday and his availability for Thursday night’s home game against the Lakers will depend on how the sore hamstring responds.
Dallas held a 52-46 halftime lead behind Nowitzki’s 17 points.
The Mavericks honored G Avery Johnson in pre-game ceremonies for playing in his 1,000th game. Johnson reached the milestone Friday night at Portland. Johnson was presented the Portland game ball by Nelson and owner Mark Cuban. … Hornets G David Wesley missed his seventh straight game because of a bruised left foot. … The Charlotte-New Orleans franchise has lost seven straight to the Mavericks. …Davis had only seven points over the final three quarters. …The Mavericks had 14 steals, their most since Jan. 21. Dallas is19-3 when it has 10 or more steals.