12/22/2006 Mavericks vs. L.A. Clippers

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Dallas 115, L.A. Clippers 83

DALLAS, Dec. 22 (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki's sprained left ankle was mild enough to allow him to play a significant role in the Dallas Mavericks' sixth straight victory.

Nowitzki contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Clippers 115-83 Friday night.

Corey Maggette had 19 points for the Clippers, who have lost six straight.

Nowitzki sat out the final three quarters of Wednesday night's victory over the Seattle SuperSonics with the ankle injury and the Mavericks feared at the time that Nowitzki would be out for an extended stretch.

But there was no swelling in the ankle and Nowitzki, who has sustained several ankle sprains over his career, was walking without a limp by Thursday. When he was able to warm up without any setback, he gave the go-ahead to be included among coach Avery Johnson's starters.

``I actually decided right before the game, Nowitzki said. ``I worked out this morning and felt OK. Before the game, the ankle was a little stiff so I wasn't sure, but felt good during the warmup.

``I know a lot about ankle injuries by now. I've had so many over the years so I knew nothing worse could happen to my ankle by playing tonight. I'm glad I played and glad for the win.

Nowitzki, who hit three of five 3-pointers, played only 27 minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter after the Mavericks built a 38-point lead.

Josh Howard's 25 points paced the Mavericks, who also got a season-high 21 points from reserve Devean George.

``We didn't want Dirk to carry us tonight, George said. ``He needed help so we all had to step up. He looked OK at the shootaround, but he's still not running right and planting right. Hopefully with a few days off he'll be ready to go full-strength.

George went 5-for-6 from 3-point range for Dallas, which finished 15-for-27 from beyond the arc to set a season high for 3-pointers.

``We had to take this team seriously, George said. ``They have a lot of good players and can catch fire at any time. They're trying to find themselves right now.

Jason Terry added 15 points for Dallas, including a four-point play in the second quarter.

Elton Brand had all 18 of his points in the first half for the Clippers. Chris Kaman finished with 11.

In their first meeting this season, the Clippers were 103-85 winners on Nov. 8 in Los Angeles. At the time, the Clippers were 4-1 and the Mavericks were 0-4.

A lot has changed in 1000 the interim.

``We were disappointed they beat us handily in L.A., Terry said. ``There was a focus and a mind-set to put this team away early and we did.

Nowitzki got off to a fast start, contributing six points and seven rebounds in the first quarter while the Mavericks were taking a 26-22 lead.

Dallas went 8-for-15 from beyond the 3-point line in the first half, three each by Terry and George, to build a 63-45 advantage at the break.

The 63 points were the most by the Mavericks in the first half this season. Dallas shot 53 percent in the first half (23-for-43).

Dallas broke it open with a 14-0 third-quarter spurt.

``They have a lot of weapons, no doubt about it, Clippers guard Sam Cassell said. ``Tonight they used them. They did whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it and how they wanted to do it.

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was troubled by his team's defensive difficulties, especially in the first half.

``It's baffling, Dunleavy said. ``We've proven we can defend the last couple of years. Right now, for some reason, our guys are a step slow. It's hard to put your finger on it. We're just searching.

Notes: Dallas F Jerry Stackhouse missed the game with a sprained left ankle. Stackhouse, who sprained his ankle in the first quarter against the Sonics seconds before Nowitzki's injury, is day to day and should be available for Dallas' next game against the Charlotte Bobcats on Dec. 26. ... Kaman is sporting shorter hair after recently having his signature long blond locks trimmed. ... Dallas had its most lopsided victory of the season. The previous high was 107-80 over Washington on Nov. 21. ... The Clippers had their most one-sided defeat this season and worst loss ever to the Mavericks. The Clippers were beaten by San Antonio, 111-82 on Dec. 8.