Mavs Hold No. 2 Seed with Win Over Denver

Dirk Nowitzki's scoring and rebounding are a given. The Dallas Mavericks' All-Star forward also prides himself on his passing.

Nowitzki had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double, and the Mavericks maintained the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a 109-93 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

His first 16 double-doubles this season were for points and rebounds. But with the Nuggets throwing double-teams at him, Nowitzki passed to open teammates for easy baskets.

"That's when we're at our best, sharing the ball," Nowitzki said.

Nowitzki reached double-digits in assists when he dished to Jason Terry for a 19-foot jumper that gave Dallas a 107-89 advantage with 2:15 left.

"We ran that last play for me to get that last assist for 'Jet' and that was a great play design," Nowitzki said.

Nowitzki's other triple-double came with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against Milwaukee on Feb. 6, 2008.

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Nowitzki hit 4 of 5 from 3-point range and went 16 for 17 from the free throw line as the Mavericks moved to 4-4 since snapping a season-best 13-game winning streak.

"(Nowitzki) did everything," said Dallas' Jason Kidd, who had eight points and 10 assists. "He set the table, he accepted double-teams, he moved the ball and hit shots."

Shawn Marion added 21 points and Terry contributed 15 for Dallas, which increased its conference lead over Denver to 1 1-2 games.

Marion's defense on Denver's top scorer Carmelo Anthony was another factor in the victory.

"The key to the game was the job that Shawn Marion did on Carmelo," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's one of the toughest guys in the league to guard and (Marion) took the challenge."

Anthony, the league's No. 3 scorer, went 3 for 16 from the floor and had a season-low 10 points, 18.9 below his average.

"He struggled a little bit today," Nuggets acting coach Adrian Dantley said. "I can't remember him having a game like this."

J.R. Smith scored 27 points and Nene had 14 for the Nuggets, who lost their fifth in six games and, coupled with Utah's win over New York later Monday night, fell out of first place in the Northwest Division. The Jazz now hold a one-game lead over Denver.

Chauncey Billups also had an off night for the Nuggets, going 3 for 14 from the floor and finishing with 11 points, 8.8 under his average.

The Nuggets pulled to 82-75 with 10:08 left, but Terry scored the Mavericks' next eight points, including a pair of 3s, for a 90-77 lead with 8:05 to play.

Dallas went on to lead by as many as 20 points down the stretch. The Mavericks carried a 79-69 advantage into the fourth quarter after leading by as many as 17 in the third.

Denver's top rebounder Kenyon Martin missed his 14th straight game due to left knee patella tendinitis. Martin usually guards Nowitzki, and the Nuggets didn't have another physical defender to muscle up on Nowitzki.

"When Kenyon is not on (Nowitzki), he has a lot of freedom, and he took advantage of that tonight," Dantley said.

The Nuggets continue to struggle without Martin and while coach George Karl undergoes treatment for throat cancer. Denver is 7-7 in Karl's absence.

Denver was coming off Sunday's 103-97 road loss to Orlando, and the Nuggets seemed weary as they completed a five-game trip.

"This was one of those games we gotta go get no matter if it's frustration or fatigue, no matter what, it's a must-win game," Smith said.

NOTES: Both teams have already clinched playoff spots. ... Anthony had scored 25 or more points in his previous eight games. ...Carlisle said before the game that he has sent encouraging text messages to Karl during Karl's cancer treatments. "His health situation is in our thoughts and prayers," Carlisle said. ... Dallas G J.J. Barea missed the game with a sore left ankle.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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