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Mavs in playoff hunt after win over Jazz

The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- If the Dallas Mavericks are going to catch the Los Angeles Lakers for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, they needed to catch the Utah Jazz first.

That's exactly what happened Sunday night.

The Mavericks pulled into a dead heat with the Jazz by virtue of a 113-108 victory over Utah at American Airlines Center. Dallas and Utah are both 34-36 with 12 games left in the regular season. The Lakers (36-34) are the team just ahead of both in the standings.

The Mavericks have at least put themselves in the postseason conversation by winning eight of their past 11 games. Dallas is trying to extend its playoff streak to 13 consecutive years.

"The end of the game was ugly," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We got through it. I guess I've been around this game long enough to realize and understand that you can't make a win feel like a loss. (Utah) did a good job, we did a horrible job, but we got the win so we've got to move on."

Utah is collapsing down the stretch. The Jazz, once sitting comfortably in the top eight, have lost four in a row and 12 of the past 15. Utah's nine-game road losing streak is the organization's longest in three decades.

The Mavericks made a statement against Utah, especially in the second half. Journeyman point guard Mike James played a key role, finishing with 19 points. Dallas had six others in double figures, including Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 17.

Enes Kanter scored 17 points for Utah, most coming in garbage time. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap each had 15, and Millsap added a game-high nine rebounds. Jefferson had only four points after the first quarter.

The Jazz trailed by as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter before a furious late surge made the final score respectable.

"If we play the way we start the game to finish the game, I think we'll have a great chance to win," Jefferson said.

Utah's late rally did leave the Mavericks frustrated.

"We have to learn how to finish games and it wasn't fun at the end of the game," James said. "We have to be able to put them away and not let them have hope and not give them an opportunity, but that's what we did tonight. The good thing is that we were able to finish it when we played 46-47 minutes, but this game is a 48-minute game and we shouldn't make the same mistakes again."

Dallas pulled away in the third behind James and Nowitzki. Nursing a one-point advantage at the half, the Mavericks streaked late in the third to take an 83-71 lead into the final 12 minutes.

"I thought they were the aggressor in the third quarter," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "We came out (and) we got three, four fouls right there at the beginning of the quarter. (Dallas) ended up into the bonus about four minutes into the quarter. And then we couldn't put the ball in the basket, made a couple defensive mistakes, they made a couple baskets, and struggled a little bit in that quarter."

Utah held the lead for most of a nip-and-tuck first half until Dallas finished strong. Vince Carter had a flurry late in the second quarter, and Nowitzki gave the Mavericks a 53-52 edge going into the break with a jumper.

Nowitzki had 11 points in the half, with Elton Brand adding 10 off the bench. Jefferson had 11 for Utah, doing all of his damage in the opening period. Mo Williams knocked down two 3-pointers on his way to 10 first-half points.

Jefferson had the hot hand early for the Jazz, scoring 11 in the first quarter on 4-of-5 shooting. He scored eight of the team's first 10 points, and Utah shot 53 percent in the period to lead 27-24.

The Mavericks made half of their 22 first-quarter attempts.

Utah returns home to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, while the Mavericks play host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

NOTES: The Mavericks are expected to sign Justin Dentmon from their D-League affiliate, according to reports. The team is looking for guard depth after Roddy Beaubois was lost to a broken hand. Beaubois is out for the rest of the regular season, but said he could return for the playoffs if Dallas makes it. ... Utah hadn't lost at least nine in a row since a 17-game skid in 1981-82. ... Dallas didn't renew the 10-day contract of Chris Wright, the only player in NBA history known to have multiple sclerosis. ... The Jazz won both games against the Mavericks in Salt Lake City earlier this season.
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