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Dirk the difference as Mavs hold off Pacers
By Conrad Brunner
His name is not commonly mentioned among the top MVP candidates but it's difficult to imagine a player with bigger impact on his team than Dirk Nowitzki.
With Nowitzki out with a sprained knee in January, the Pacers beat the Mavs by 13.
With the veteran forward not only in the lineup but playing a nearly perfect offensive game, hitting 10-of-12 shots on his way to 29 points, the Mavs overcame a valiant effort by the Pacers and won 116-108 on Friday before 20,385 in American Airlines Center.
The only two shots Nowitzki missed were his easiest – an open 3-pointer in the third quarter and an uncontested layup in the fourth. Other than that, he hit everything from all angles.
Indiana cut a 14-point deficit to three late in the fourth quarter but another Dallas veteran, Jason Terry, hit consecutive tough jumpers to quell the threat and the Mavericks pulled away.
Danny Granger led the Pacers with 22 points while the power forward combination of Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough combined for 28 points and 10 rebounds.
The Pacers dropped their second in a row and fourth in five games to fall to 27-34 overall, 10-20 on the road and 10-7 under Frank Vogel. They've also lost seven straight in Dallas. The Mavs won their eighth in a row and 18th in 19 games to improve to 45-16 overall, 23-8 on the road.
- "We didn't defend well enough in the first half. They got off on us. They are an extremely explosive offensive team and we didn't do a good enough job in the first half. Our guys fought like they always do and made a game of it in the second half, but it wasn't enough." – Vogel
- "We made them work. We wanted to make these guys work for tough shots, and I thought we did that in the second half. And they worked and they made really tough shots down the stretch. That's why they ended up beating us." – Vogel
- "We’ve always known there are ups and downs with the schedule. We're just battling every night. We believe a great deal in ourselves that we are going to make the playoffs." – Vogel
- "They executed a lot of their sets to perfection. Down the stretch they made some big shots, Jason Terry and Dirk. Dirk only missed two shots the whole game, so that pretty much sums it up." – Granger
- "They were moving the ball extremely well. In the huddles I was telling guys you’ve to make two, three rotations because they’re so good at working the ball around. And we didn’t get off the shooters; in transition sometimes we didn’t pick up known shooters and they burned us." – Pacers center Roy Hibbert
STAT OF THE GAME
With Nowitzki in the lineup, the Mavericks are 43-9. In games he has missed, they are 2-7.
Both teams were red-hot in the first half as the Pacers shot 56 percent but trailed 68-57 at the break as the Mavericks hit 63 percent. Indiana led 42-39 early in the second quarter but Dallas put together an 18-4 run to build a 57-46 lead as the Pacers went nearly five minutes without a field goal. Nowitzki had eight points in that run.
Dallas appeared to be in control, up 90-81 heading into the fourth quarter but the Pacers opened with a 9-4 burst from the second unit, including a three-point play from rookie Paul George that cut the lead to 94-90 with 8:28 left.
The Mavs answered with seven in a row, including a tough turnaround from Nowitzki and a 3-pointer from DeShawn Stevenson, to push the Dallas lead to 101-90 with 6:06 left.
Granger hit a 3-pointer, then dunked after throwing an inbounds pass to himself off the backside of Dallas center Ian Mahinmi, and Darren Collison added a 3-pointer as the Pacers again threatened, pulling to 101-98 with 3:24 remaining.
But Terry hit two challenged jumpers in a row to start the Mavs on a 9-2 run that put the game away.
BY THE NUMBERS
Granger was 6-of-15 from the field, 3-of-7 from the arc and 7-of-7 from the line for his 22 points. Collison scored 17 with six assists and McRoberts went 5-of-5 from the field and the line for his 15. Hansbrough shot 5-of-13 for 13 points and seven rebounds. Roy Hibbert had 11 points and eight boards and Brandon Rush was 3-of-3 from the arc and totaled 10 points. The Pacers shot .487 overall but were outrebounded 41-31 and committed 18 turnovers.
Nowitzki had four rebounds and two assists along with his 29 points. Terry had 21 points and six assists off the bench, while Jason Kidd had 3-of-4 from the arc and scored 15 with six rebounds and five assists. Rodrigue Beaubois had 13 and Brendan Haywood 10 for the Mavs, who shot .519 overall and outscored the Pacers 27-23 from the line.
- Rookie Lance Stephenson continued to play well in limited time for the Pacers with six assists in 12 minutes off the bench. In the last three games, Stephenson has totaled 46 minutes, 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
- Collison left the game in the first quarter after suffering a mild left ankle sprain but returned late in the second period and played his regular rotations in the second half.
- Dallas was without starting center Tyson Chandler (right ankle sprain).
- The Mavs scored 35 in the first quarter, bringing the opponent total to 191 (31.8) in the opening period of Indiana's last six losses.
The Pacers play their fourth game in five nights Saturday in Houston against the Rockets (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana, WIBC 93 FM).