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Mavericks hand Pacers fourth consecutive loss

The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- Two NBA heavyweights visited American Airlines Center the past three days, and both left with losses.

It was a good weekend for the Dallas Mavericks.

Behind 20 points and five assists from reserve guard Devin Harris, the Mavericks topped the Indiana Pacers 105-94 Sunday night.

Dallas (38-26) beat Indiana by following a similar script to Friday's win over the Portland Trail Blazers: get out to a big lead early, fall behind in the second half and make enough big plays down the stretch.

"We really responded after losing those three in a row," Harris said. "We needed to get back on track starting with the last game. Obviously, we started off well and ended well but had some trouble in between, and we had to fight throughout the game."

The Pacers (46-17) dropped their fourth consecutive game, a season-high skid that would have cost them the top spot in the Eastern Conference if the Miami Heat weren't also slumping.

Indiana coach Frank Vogel isn't ready to panic.

"Stay the course. We've got a good basketball team," Vogel said. "It's a tough stretch of the schedule. We knew it was going to be tough. You're going to have to play at your best to win at Dallas, at Houston, (and) to win on the fourth game of five nights. It's going to be tough, but we're not playing at our best. So we'll work through it. We'll be all right."

Dallas guard Monta Ellis scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki struggled through a 3-for-14 shooting night, but he still scored 14 and added eight boards.

Indiana forward Paul George had game highs in points (27) and rebounds (11). Guard Lance Stephenson scored 21, but only three in the second half. Pacers guard George Hill added 20 points.

Dallas' bench outscored Indiana's bench 41-4. Mavericks reserve guard Vince Carter had 10 points and seven rebounds, but the performance of Harris left an impression. Harris knocked down four 3-pointers and also had four steals.

"What was not to like?" Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He was active defensively, he was hitting shots and he was making plays. He brings an extra dimension to our guard rotation.

"I thought all our guards played well, but he stood out because he had the ball a lot and he made really good decisions."

As in the Portland game, the Mavericks came out firing against the Pacers. A 3-pointer from Nowitzki gave Dallas a 14-4 lead and coaxed a timeout from Vogel.

The Pacers were taking poor shots late in the shot clock throughout the first half, and they went scoreless for nearly five minutes from late in the first quarter to early in the second.

The Mavericks were up 30-18 at the end of the first period, and they took as much as a 35-18 lead in the second. And just as they did two nights prior, the Mavs squandered that advantage.

The Pacers outscored Dallas 14-2 over the last four minutes of the half to trail just 48-45 at the break. Stephenson had 18 points going into the locker room.

George, in foul trouble in the first half, opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to tie the game. Indiana went up 55-50 before Dallas charged back ahead with a 20-5 run.

The Mavericks led by 10 midway through the fourth quarter when Indiana made another push. The Pacers had the ball looking for a tie when Ellis forced a turnover and Harris converted a three-point play.

Harris also knocked down a 3-pointer in the last minute that salted the game away and completed Dallas' two-game season sweep of Indiana.

"You've got to give the Mavs credit," Vogel said. "They played a better basketball game. We turned the ball over a little too much and didn't take care of the glass well enough."

NOTES: The Mavericks hold a one-game lead on the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies, who are tied for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle isn't the only one stressing the importance of every game down the stretch. "It's that close," he said. "You're either feeling great about it or it's a really tough, tough night." ... Indiana arrived in Dallas having allowed an average of 110 points per game since the All-Star break. ... Carlisle coached the Pacers for three years, going 181-147 and leading the team to the playoffs each season. His 61-21 record in 2002-03 remains the franchise record for wins. ... After Sunday's game, Dallas F Dirk Nowitzki trails John Havlicek by 13 points for 12th on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

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