Mavs win 4th straight at home, 96-81 over Hornets

The Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) Even without Jason Kidd in the lineup and Dirk Nowitzki having another bad shooting night, Dallas had no problem against the depleted New Orleans Hornets.

Vince Carter and Ian Mahinmi each had 13 points to lead six Mavericks in double figures in a 96-81 victory Saturday night for their fourth consecutive home victory.

''This is kind of the defining characteristic of this season,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. ''Depth is king, energy trumps everything.''

Nowitzki got in foul trouble early, with two in the first 4 minutes. He was only 2 of 11 from the field for 10 points in 30 minutes against the Hornets, who lost their sixth consecutive game.

''It's a win. When you're struggling like we are, the only thing you can take out of this is that it's a win,'' said Nowitzki, the MVP of last season's NBA Finals. ''I've got to keep working. I'm not there yet. I had shots. I've got to make them.''

Despite the winning streak at home, Dallas has had a couple of lopsided road losses during that same stretch. The Mavericks were coming off a 93-71 loss at San Antonio on Thursday night, when they made only 1 of 19 shots from 3-point range. Nowitzki went 3 for 11 and had just six points in that loss.

''I hope he keeps getting those looks,'' Carlisle said. ''He's going to get there.''

Carter started for the first time since the opener with Kidd out because of a lower back injury. He and Mahinmi both played well during important stretches for Dallas.

Plus, 11 different Mavericks had already scored by halftime.

Delonte West and Jason Terry both finished with 12 points, while Roddy Beaubois had 11 for the defending NBA champions.

Al-Farouq Aminu had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead New Orleans, which was without three players who are in its regular rotation. Post player Jason Smith missed the game to be with his family after the death of his grandmother Friday night. Guard Eric Gordon (bruised right knee) and forward Trevor Ariza (groin strain) were also out.

The Hornets played their second of three games in four days. They lost at home against the Nuggets on Friday, and play in Denver on Monday.

''It's difficult. It's part of the season, part of the grind. Guys have injuries, personal problems, to deal with. We just came up short,'' said Hornets guard Jarrett Jack, who had 13 points. ''Getting healthy is part of it. We need to get back our nucleus and get back on track. I'm not going to make excuses. We've got to learn as we go.''

The Mavericks extended their lead to 50-36 when Carter was involved in all the points of a 7-0 run in just over 1 1/2 minutes late in the first half. Carter had a steal that led to Terry's 16-foot pull-up jumper. After Carter rebounded a Hornets miss, he passed the ball to Shawn Marion for an alley-oop pass to Brandan Wright while being fouled. Wright added the free throw.

''Just playing within the flow of the offense,'' Carter said. ''We're a very unselfish team.''

That spurt ended when Carter took a step around Marco Belinelli and exploded along the baseline for a monster one-handed dunk to make it 50-36.

''He surprised everybody with that,'' Brendan Haywood said. ''We need that excitement.''

Even after missing 10 consecutive shots in the third quarter, Dallas still had a 10-point lead. New Orleans never got closer.

Beaubois ended that shooting drought with a long jumper with 5:44 left in the third quarter. He then had a steal and a pass to Marion for a slam dunk that made it 68-54.

There were nine lead changes and five ties in the first 7 1/2 minutes before Odom tipped in his own missed layup to break a 16-all tie. The Mavs led the rest of the way, and pushed in front 26-20 by the end of the first after Mahinmi had an impressive 2-minute surge.

Terry had an alley-oop pass to Mahinmi, who scored again after getting a pass from Marion. Terry then lost control of the ball, which was pulled in by Mahinmi on the floor, who gave it back to Terry for a 12-foot bank shot.

''Ian's a good example of what's important this year,'' Carlisle said. ''He's energetic and involved in every play.''

Notes: Kidd will miss at least two more games. Carlisle said the team doesn't think the injury is serious but will ''err on the side of caution'' with the 38-year-old Kidd, who left late in the first quarter of Thursday's game at San Antonio. ... Gordon missed his second consecutive game and sixth of seven since the Hornets opener. ... Both teams played the fifth of 18 scheduled games in January. ... Chris Kaman and Jack both got called for technical fouls during the same sequence. Kaman was his reaction to being called for a foul, and Jack had a few words with officials as well. Carter hit both free throws for being fouled by Kaman, and Nowitzki made both technical free throws.

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