DALLAS (AP) — Mark Cuban had some more words for the Dallas Mavericks after their latest performance.
"Good win," he told them.
Perhaps inspired by a tongue-lashing from their owner over their lackadaisical play in their previous game, the Mavericks bounced back by beating the rival San Antonio Spurs 107-102 Wednesday night.
Josh Howard scored 29 points, including a key layup in the final minute, and Jason Kidd hit a clutch 3-pointer with 31 seconds left to seal the victory — but that was only part of the show.
Jason Terry fed Kidd for that 3, then grabbed a rebound that led to the game-icing free throws with 10.8 seconds left. Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, and Erick Dampier had nine points, four rebounds and pestered Tim Duncan into a bad night. Duncan was 7-for-21, with only eight points over the final three quarters.
In short, it was everything Dallas did not do in a thumping on Monday night against an Oklahoma City team missing its two leading scorers.
"If we play hard every possession like we did tonight, we can beat a really good team," Cuban said after this game. "Now it's up to the guys to keep on doing it. ... I knew what we were capable of. We got leadership from Dirk and Josh and Jason Kidd. Everybody was really good. Now we've got to do this again and again."
On Tuesday, Cuban questioned his team's effort and commitment, threatening to get rid of anyone he didn't think was trying.
"I don't care what their contract is," he said. "I would rather turn over the roster 100 percent than subject fans to another game like last night."
The Mavericks took control of a tight game by holding the Spurs to only two baskets over the final seven minutes of the third quarter. That defense helped turn a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead. The lead grew to 10 late in the fourth quarter, until Tony Parker led a 10-2 surge that got San Antonio within 100-98.
Howard, who left the previous game with an ankle injury, bumped the lead by cutting through the lane, taking a pass from Nowitzki and dropping it in. After Parker scored again, Terry drew in the defense and passed to Kidd in the corner. Kidd had 15 of his 17 points in the second half; he also had nine assists and seven rebounds.
Parker missed a 3-pointer after that and Terry got the rebound. He dribbled nearly to halfcourt before getting fouled.
"I think the team responded well," said Howard, who scored 20 points in the first half, with 12 straight in the first quarter. "Every game is important right now and we need to win."
Kidd said Cuban told the team merely, "Good win."
"He was just as excited as we were," Kidd said.
Kidd and coach Rick Carlisle said the real key to this game was breaking out a play they hadn't used since last year's playoffs. Basically, it involves using 7-footers Nowitzki and Dampier to both set screens for the other shooters.
"We ran it like five times in a row and I think we scored every time," Kidd said, smiling. "We were talking about different things that worked (last year) and fell right into it."
Parker scored 37 points and Roger Mason had 23. Duncan had 19 points and 12 rebounds, but wasn't his usual dominating self as the Spurs lost for the third time in four games.
"I put it on my shoulders," Duncan said. "I really played an awful game on both ends. I've got to clean that up. ... They were real physical and I felt I got fouled on a couple things. But everybody feels like they get fouled sometimes. I tried to play through it, then started compounding by missing layups and missing shots. Frustrating night."
San Antonio drubbed the Mavs last week without Duncan or Manu Ginobili, who is still out with an ankle injury, and went up 72-68 when Parker hit a 3-pointer with 7:09 left in the third quarter. Dallas called a time out, then responded with an 11-0 run that put it ahead for good.
The Mavericks seemed to have broken the Spurs midway through the fourth, when Dampier blocked Duncan and followed with a dunk on the other end, then San Antonio's Bruce Bowen missed two 3-point tries on one possession and Nowitzki answered by nailing a 3. He then ran back yanking his jersey, sticking out his tongue and holding up three fingers, making the crowd go wild while San Antonio called a time out.
The Spurs still had their last-minute push left, but it wasn't enough.
"We feel like we could've played a little bit better defense, but in the end they made more plays," Mason said.<
Notes:@ In honor of Noche Latina (Latin Night), both teams wore special jerseys. They read, "Los Spurs" and "Los Mavs." ... Another factor for Duncan might've been the presence of official Joey Crawford. Two years ago, Duncan was laughing on the bench when Crawford tossed him, then Duncan later accused Crawford of challenging him to a fight. Crawford was suspended for five months. In the opening minutes, Duncan was called for a foul, started to complain, realized Crawford made the call, then shook his head and put his arms straight up.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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