DALLAS, Nov. 11 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki
and the Dallas Mavericks did it with defense.
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Nowitzki collected 26 points, 17 rebounds and a career-high six steals as the unbeaten Mavericks continued the best start in
franchise history with an 82-73 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dallas used offense to win its first six games, averaging more than 109 points and leading by at least 19 in each one. However, the Mavs maintained that they were an improved defensive team this season and proved it against Portland.
Nowitzki was active on defense and 7-6 center Shawn Bradley had a huge game with 10 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks. The Mavs won despite shooting a season-low 39.7 percent (31-of-78) as they held the Blazers to just 35 percent (28-of-79).
"I think defensively we looked sharp," Nowitzki said. "Our zone is good lately. We clog up the middle and Bradley's in there. He's blocking a lot of shots and we're proud of him. It's great to see everyone hustling out there on defense."
"It was a different kind of game," Bradley said. "It was not the kind of game we were supposed to be able to play in."
Dallas missed its first eight three-pointers and struggled to get going, falling behind, 35-22, midway through the second period.
Nowitzki drilled a pair of three-pointers to trigger a 10-0 run as the Mavericks quickly got back into the game, trailing 38-34 at halftime.
Adrian Griffin and Michael Finley opened the second half with baskets, Nowitzki made a pair from the line and Finley nailed a long three-pointer as Dallas took the lead for good. Finley added a pair of baskets in the final minute of the quarter as the Mavs extended to a 62-50 lead.
"We found a way to win and it was very impressive for our team to gut this one out," Finley said. "I was very proud of the guys tonight and the coaches too."
Rasheed Wallace scored 14 points on just 5-of-21 shooting for Portland, which was held to less than 80 points for the fourth time in eight games this season.
The Blazers were without guard Bonzi Wells, who was serving a one-game suspension for a spitting incident on Saturday at San Antonio. Guard Derek Anderson also is not with the team due to a concussion.
"Those are two offensive players you would have used, but we use the players we have on our team," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I can't concern myself with those guys because they (the Mavs) were out with (Raef) LaFrentz and (Nick) Van Exel, two of their key players. We use the guys that we have and I depend on the guys that we have."
While Dallas was tough defensively, Wallace was mostly responsible for his rough night. He repeatedly settled for
difficult jumpers and made 3-of-15 shots from inside the three-point arc.
Portland also made just 10-of-20 free throws. Ruben Patterson missed a pair and is shooting 28 percent (7-of-25) this season.
Finley finished with 21 points and Steve Nash added 12 and seven assists after not scoring in the first half. The huge efforts on the glass by Nowitzki and Bradley resulted in Dallas holding a 54-47 rebounding edge.
Dallas has held its last two opponents to under 36 percent shooting. The Mavs have held opponents below 40 percent
shooting three times this season.
"Of course you are used to Nowitzki playing well, but I thought Bradley stepped up and gave us an outstanding game and set the tone defensively," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "When things were going poorly, he anchored our defense and kept us in the game."
Damon Stoudamire scored 13 points and Arvydas Sabonis added 10 and 10 rebounds for Portland, which fell to 1-4 on the road this season. Portland forced 21 turnovers but could only convert them into 12 points.
"The first half, I thought we came out and really put a lot of pressure on them," Blazers forward Dale Davis said. "They bounced back the second half and really pushed the ball at us."