Warriors beat Mavs to create 3-way tie

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Monta Ellis scored 30 points and Kelenna Azubuike hit two clutch shots down the stretch to help the Golden State Warriors beat the Dallas Mavericks 114-104 Sunday night to create a three-way tie for seventh place in the ultracompetitive Western Conference.

With nine games remaining, Dallas, Golden State and Denver are all even at 45-28. If the season ended today, the Warriors would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs because they have lost two of three to both the Nuggets and Mavericks. But if Golden State manages to beat Denver and Dallas in their final meetings, the Mavericks would be the odd team out in a three-way tie.

That’s quite a fall for a team that made it to the NBA finals in 2006, won a league-best 67 games in the regular season a year ago before being upset by Golden State in the opening round, and traded for Jason Kidd this season.

But with star forward Dirk Nowitzki sidelined with knee and ankle injuries, the Mavericks could have a tough time making a drive for a playoff spot. Dallas fell to 1-2 without Nowitzki, with the two losses coming to Denver and Golden State.

The Warriors, who fell into ninth place for the first time since Feb. 22 with a loss Saturday at Denver, rebounded against the Mavericks after falling behind by 12 points in the opening minutes. These teams play again Wednesday in Dallas.

Golden State built a 14-point lead in the third quarter but led by only four late in the fourth quarter. That’s when Azubuike hit a 3-pointer from straightaway to make it 105-98 with less than 4 minutes left and waved his arms to the cheering crowd. He added a jumper to make it 109-100 with 2:27 to go and Golden State went on to its 17th comeback win from a double-digit deficit.

Baron Davis added 21 points, Stephen Jackson had 16 and Andris Biedrins had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Azubuike scored 15 off the bench a day after Davis and Jackson called for more help from the reserves

Josh Howard scored 36 to lead Dallas in his third straight 30-point game since Nowitzki went down with the injury. Brandon Bass added 21 off the bench, while Kidd had 13 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds.

The Warriors have made a bad habit of falling behind early and this game was no different. The Mavericks made their first six shots, while Golden State opened 0-for-10 and fell behind 12-0 less than 4 minutes into the game. But the Warriors quickly found their stride and erased that entire deficit with a 16-3 run and led 27-26 after one.