The Dallas Mavericks are slowly creeping back up the Western Conference standings.
Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and six rebounds, Jason Terry had 23 points and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Orlando Magic 105-95 Monday night for their third straight win.
“We’ve had stretches where we’ve lost a few, but right now our guys are finding ways to help each other,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, whose team began the day seventh in the West. “They’re finding reasons to play harder even when the shots aren’t going in. That’s a winning formula.”
Josh Howard and Jason Kidd added 13 apiece for the Mavericks, who held Orlando to 3-for-20 shooting from 3-point range.
Dwight Howard had 35 points and 11 rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu scored 18 as the Magic ended their three-game winning streak. But that wasn’t the worst news of the night for Orlando.
All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson left the game in the third quarter with a dislocated right shoulder. He was scheduled to have an MRI on Tuesday.
“I can still shoot with my other arm,” Nelson joked afterward, his arm in a sling. “I don’t know what happened. I just got hit to the floor. We don’t know how bad it is yet, so we’ll wait and see.”
Orlando, which has avoided a major injury this season, is hoping Nelson’s dislocation isn’t anything more than that.
“He’s the point guard. He’s the leader,” forward Courtney Lee said. “Hopefully we won’t miss him too long. We’ll need him.”
Dallas took advantage in his absence.
Terry’s 3-point play capped a 19-6 run as the Mavericks turned a tight game into a blowout, going ahead 75-57 in the third quarter. Dallas started fast in the fourth, using a 10-4 spurt to take an 87-67 lead.
“We got walloped,” Van Gundy said. “That was the toughest game since opening night,” a 99-85 loss to Atlanta.
A late rally by the Magic cut Dallas’ lead to 99-90 with 2:29 remaining on a 3-pointer by Turkoglu. But each time Orlando nudged closer, Nowitzki and the Mavericks would answer back.
It was quite different early.
Mickael Pietrus’ layup highlighted an 11-4 Magic run, giving them a 40-33 lead midway through the second quarter. But Dallas would answer, clamping down on Howard and getting out on the fast break.
Forcing turnovers and speeding up the tempo, the Mavericks closed the half on an 18-7 spurt that put them ahead 54-47. Dallas’ perimeter defense was stellar, holding Orlando to 1-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half.
“I think overall, defensively, I think the job we did was what won us the game,” Nowitzki said. “They were cold from the 3-point line. We tried to stay with the shooter and that’s ultimately what won us the game.”
It wasn’t as easy early in the paint.
Muscling through Mavericks at will, Howard nearly had a double-double by the end of the first quarter: He had 12 points and six rebounds, powering the Magic to a 27-25 lead.
But even Howard wasn’t perfect.
He was rejected by the rim on an alley-hoop attempt in the first quarter, falling to the floor after misjudging his position under the basket. Josh Howard was able to keep the Mavericks in range early, scoring 10 points in the first quarter.
“That one was pretty simple,” Van Gundy said. “We couldn’t stop them, and we couldn’t score. That makes for a long evening.” ^Notes: Van Gundy was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for January. Orlando went 10-3 in January, while Dallas was 8-7. … Earlier Monday, it was announced that Nelson will participate in the skills challenge competition as part of the All-Star break contests. He was already heading to Phoenix after being added as an All-Star reserve to the East roster, joining teammates Howard and Rashard Lewis. Howard will try to defend his slam-dunk contest title.