Mavericks 127, Kings 117

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DALLAS (AP)—Coach Don Nelson’s emphasis on smaller lineups is working out nicely for the Dallas Mavericks.

Michael Finley scored 29 points, Steve Nash had a career-high 19 assists and the Mavericks won their third straight game since going back to a smallball lineup, 127-117 over the Western Conference-leading—and suddenly struggling— Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

“This has been good for us. We needed to get our confidence back,” Antawn Jamison said.

The Mavericks matched a season-high for points with their fourth straight game of at least 118 points, a mark they had reached just once in 26 games before that.

“We get more open looks, more opportunities in the open court, and it’s working for us,” Finley said.

Sacramento lost for the fourth time in five games, falling into a tie for the conference lead with the Los Angeles Lakers, who beat Houston 93-85. The Kings were coming off a 107-89 loss at San Antonio a night earlier.

“We’ve won 52 games. We’ve got to find out how we did that,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “We have to find ourselves again.”

Finley made seven straight field goals in one stretch. The first four came in a 10-0 run at the end of the first half that pushed the Mavericks ahead 67-50.

Coming off a season-low two points in 10 minutes Tuesday against Cleveland after missing three games with a strained right calf, Finley hit 13 of 22 shots in his team-high 42 minutes.

“It was good to get back into the trenches with the guys,” Finley said. “I’m glad to be back.”

His 13-foot fadeaway jumper with 2:44 left started the first half-ending spurt. His follow-up slam dunk of Jamison’s missed layup came with 2.3 seconds left.

Sacramento scored the first five points of the second half before Finley scored. Then Finley’s 3-pointer gave Dallas its first 20-point lead, 74-54.

Nash had 20 points to go along with his 19 assists, the most in the NBA this season and a franchise record for a regulation game. Jason Kidd had 25 assists in a double-overtime game in 1996.

“Steve is always pushing the ball up the court,” said Jamison, who had 16 points. “If there’s a little opening, he’s going to get it to you.”

Dirk Nowitzki followed a 35-point, 18-rebound effort Tuesday with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Marquis Daniels added 16 points.

Mike Bibby led six Kings in double figures with 23 points. Chris Webber had 22 points and Peja Stojakovic 21.

Mavericks coach Don Nelson, whose team has already clinched a playoff spot, said he is emphasizing the small lineup in hopes of getting the team in a positive frame of mind.

That means more time for rookies Daniels, who started his fifth straight game, and Josh Howard. Eduardo Najera, who scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, also plays more.

Healthy center Danny Fortson didn’t play, and 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley was on the court only seven minutes. Scott Williams, a 6-11 center, was in street clothes with a sore right knee though an MRI was negative.

Dallas had lost three straight games before their winning streak of the same length. The Mavs are still sixth in the conference, and could miss out on a chance for homecourt advantage for at least one postseason round.

Sacramento ends its Texas trip Sunday at Houston.

After trailing by as many as 27 points, the Kings cut the gap to 120-111 with just under three minutes left. But they never got closer after Stojakovicmissed two short baseline jumpers.

Notes

The Mavs improved to 32-5 at home, matching Sacramento for the most home wins. … Dallas was 3-1 in the season series in which the team averaged a combined 222 points. … The all-time series is 56-56, including 11-11 in 22 games since January 2002. That includes two playoff series, the last the seven-game Western Conference semifinal series won by the Mavs last year. … Webber, who has been bothered by an injured pinkie, had X-rays before the game. They were negative, but he then had a cortisone shot. … Brad Miller sat outagain for the Kings because of a sore right elbow.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Sacramento
C. Webber C. Webber
9-19,  22 Pts
11 Rebs, 5 Assists
 Dallas
S. Nash S. Nash
8-13,  20 Pts
4 Rebs, 19 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists