LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Dallas Mavericks haven’t beaten any teams with winning records since trading for Jason Kidd. They’re also having difficulty putting away teams with losing records while reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki is out with an injury.
Josh Howard came through in the clutch on Monday night, scoring 12 of his 25 in the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks held off the banged-up but stubborn Los Angeles Clippers 93-86 to complete a sweep of the four-game season series.
Howard, who scored 30 or more points in the Mavericks’ first three games without Nowitzki, was just 4-for-15 from the field over the first three quarters and 8-for-20 overall. Kidd had 27 points and Jason Terry added 20 points for Dallas, playing its fourth game since their leading scorer went down with knee and ankle injuries.
The Mavericks are 11-10 since acquiring Kidd from New Jersey, 0-10 against teams with winning records.
“This was a big win on the road because of the position we’re in,” Kidd said after his highest-scoring game with the Mavericks. “Everybody responded against a team that plays hard. With Dirk out, I’m just looking to be more aggressive and look for my shot. The coach and my teammates have been encouraging me to be aggressive and maybe score a little bit more than in the past.”
The Mavericks are seventh in the Western Conference standings, five games behind front-running San Antonio and New Orleans with eight games remaining— including the regular-season finale against the Hornets in Dallas. Just six games separate the first nine teams in the West, and one of them is going to miss the playoffs.
“We’re in control of our own destiny. All we have to do is get better on defense and keep moving the ball on offense,” coach Avery Johnson said. “If we can get some of the same performances we’re getting out of guys now without Dirk, when he gets back, we can be a pretty good team.”
Rookie Al Thornton scored 26 points for the Clippers, who trailed throughout. They shot 36.8 percent and committed 23 turnovers against a Dallas defense that came in forcing a league-low 12.3 turnovers per game. Seven of them were by Corey Maggette, who finished with 23 points despite shooting just 3-for-15 from the field.
Los Angeles lost for the 19th time in 22 tries after ending a season-worst 10-game losing streak Saturday night against Memphis.
The Clippers, who lead the league with 287 man-games lost to injuries and have used 33 different starting lineups, played the final three quarters without center Chris Kaman after he sprained his right ankle with 26 seconds left in the first. Cuttino Mobley sat out the final 15 minutes because of a sore left heel.
“I was definitely pleased with how hard our guys played,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “They kept us in the game after Kaman got hurt and after Mobley got hurt. They kept battling. But 32 points off turnovers was just too hard to overcome.”
Tim Thomas missed his second straight game with a sore Achilles’ tendon. But the news was much better for All-Star forward Elton Brand, who could make his long-awaited season debut on Thursday night at Sacramento. If he doesn’t, he definitely will play in Sunday’s home game against Houston, according to a Clippers spokesman. Brand underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon on Aug. 7, four days after he was injured during a daily workout.
Maggette missed 11 of his first 12 shots before hitting a 3-pointer that reduced Dallas’ lead to 76-70 with 7:21 to play. After Thornton’s 19-footer trimmed Dallas’ lead to 87-82 with 2:45 left, Howard responded with two free throws, an 18 footer and a short jumper to give the Mavericks an 11-point cushion with 1:24 remaining.
“We had some tough losses the past week, and we had to rebound from last night and turn it up another notch,” Howard said. “Our guys kept fighting. They had big opportunities to cut into the lead, but we came back and made big shots and communicated on defense well.”
Jerry Stackhouse, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Mavs a 95-94 win over the Clippers the last time they played them at Staples Center on Jan. 12, missed his second game with a strained right groin.
The Clippers finished March with a 3-15 record—the sixth time in the last 14 seasons that they have won fewer than five games in that month. … Six of the Clippers’ turnovers came during a 15-0 run that increased Dallas’ three-point lead to 44-26 with 5:25 left in the first half. … The Mavericks have won six straight against the Clippers, and are 12-5 against them at Staples Center since the building opened in 1999. … The Clippers’ three victories since Feb. 22 have come against Sacramento, Miami and Memphis—teams with a combined record of 68-153. They are 17-18 against clubs with losing records, and 5-36 against the rest of the league.