Mavs storm past Portland

4-7-07 -- Jason Terry stole a pass and headed in for an easy layup, the fifth straight basket by the Dallas Mavericks and the kind of momentum-boosting play he usually punctuates with a zooming imitation of his nickname, "Jet."

Instead, all Terry could muster was a halfhearted attempt, walking away with his arms slightly above his waist, nowhere near fully extended.

The lack of enthusiasm was expected in a late-season game matchup between the league's best team and one of the worst. The result Saturday night was just as predictable: Dallas 86, Portland Trail Blazers 74.

Terry scored 22 of his 29 points by halftime and Devin Harris added 18, pushing the Mavs to the verge of clinching the top seed in the Western Conference.

The next Dallas victory or loss by Phoenix will wrap up the No. 1 seed. The Suns play at the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, then the Mavericks play Monday night at home against the Los Angeles Clippers, who could be their first-round playoff foe.

Dallas won this one without using All-Star Josh Howard (sprained ankle) or sixth man Jerry Stackhouse. Dirk Nowitzki played only 26 minutes and scored just 11 points, shooting 4-for-10.

Terry made sure they weren't missed, scoring 11 points in each of the first two quarters and putting the Mavericks up by 22 before halftime. It was an important bounce-back following a 75-71 loss in Denver the night before.

"When you're a shooter and you have a night like last night, you're anxious to get back out there and play right away," said Terry, who was 6-of-20 for 13 points against the Nuggets. He made his first six of this game and was 9-of-11 at the half.

"It was good we had a game 24 hours later," he added. "I wanted to be aggressive and look to attack."

The Trail Blazers were coming off consecutive victories, but rookie of the year contender Brandon Roy was out after banging an already sore knee twice in a victory over Houston on Friday night then seeing it swell up overnight. With leading scorer Zach Randolph and rookie LaMarcus Aldridge also injured, the Blazers gave up runs of 10-0, 9-0 and 9-0 in the first two quarters en route to their 13th straight loss to the Mavericks.

"They are a really good team and did a good job of jumping out on us early," said Jarrett Jack, who led Portland with 18 points. "I thought our guys did a great job on not quitting. They showed some fight out there and made the score respectable."

Terry spent most of the second half working on slowing the tempo. After scoring 51 points the first half, Dallas seemed more intent on waiting until the shot clock was under 5 seconds before looking at the rim on most possessions. The exception was fast-break points: The Mavericks had a season-high 30, while the Blazers didn't have any until the final few minutes.

Rookie Maurice Ager played 25 minutes, nearly triple his previous most, and had two emphatic dunks among his season-high eight points.

"I've been looking for that fire," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "I haven't really seen it in practice."

A lousy matchup, a later-than-usual start and a rare mid-April cold spell drained enthusiasm from an otherwise strong crowd. Terry got them to their feet by waving his arms following a big play for Dallas with 1:19 left in the second quarter.

Seconds later, 44-year-old Kevin Willis made his Mavs debut, drawing a standing ovation from fans who had just gotten back into their seats. The veteran big man needed only 11 seconds to get his first foul and got another shortly after. The period ended with him looking at an official to make sure he didn't get hit with his third foul at the buzzer.

Willis then tried to make a nonchalant dash to the locker room -- only he went the wrong way, needing one of his new teammates to point him to a different tunnel.


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