4-11-07 - There's no letup in these Dallas Mavericks.
Even with the top seed in the Western Conference all sewn up and four regulars sitting out, they kept their foot on the gas on Wednesday night.
With Dirk Nowitzki and Jerry Stackhouse resting at home, Josh Howard and Jason Terry each scored 16 points to lead the Mavericks to a 105-88 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Mavericks set a franchise record with their 30th road victory of the season. If Dallas (65-13) wins its last four games of the season, it will finish with the second-best record in league history.
"We really didn't want to come out and just waste this game," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "We wanted to win. These guys are competitors."
The fans in attendance at Target Center certainly didn't get what they bargained for when they purchased tickets to this game, which was more notable for the guys who didn't play than those who did.
Dallas left Nowitzki, Stackhouse and Erick Dampier at home and sat Devin Harris to rest up for what will certainly be a grueling postseason.
Not to be outdone, the Timberwolves announced shortly before game time that All-Star Kevin Garnett is out indefinitely with an injured right quadriceps.
The league's leading rebounder will miss at least two games while he gets the injury examined by doctors and could be out for the remainder of the season.
In a way, Garnett's absence could help the Timberwolves.
Minnesota entered the night tied with several teams for the 10th worst record in the NBA. If the Wolves don't have a pick in the top 10 of the draft, they have to give their selection to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the Sam Cassell-Marko Jaric trade two years ago.
"I can promise you that is not the case," owner Glen Taylor said when asked if Garnett was shelved to help their lottery chances. "I did not shut him down."
Even before Garnett disclosed his injury, coach Randy Wittman was giving his young players -- rookies Randy Foye and Craig Smith and sophomore Rashad McCants -- more minutes as the Wolves look to the future.
Smith had 14 points and seven rebounds and Justin Reed scored 17 for the Timberwolves, who lost their sixth straight home game, their longest skid since a franchise-record 14-game streak in 1994.
"Our offense was terrible," Wittman said. "That led to bad defense at the other end."
The future is now for the Mavericks, who were up 2-0 on Miami in the NBA finals last season before losing four straight.
That stunning fall has them taking all this regular season success with a grain of salt. They know all these wins look good on paper, but don't mean a thing when the playoffs start.
To that end, Johnson pushed his team hard for most of the night, calling two quick timeouts after a slow start and prodding his team to stay focused.
"We weren't going to float through the game, and we reminded them of that at halftime," said Johnson, whose Mavs were down by three at the break.
DeSagana Diop pulled down a season-high 15 rebounds and scored 10 points, Austin Croshere had 19 points and six boards and Devean George added 14 points for Dallas in a balanced effort.
"I think a lot of guys who don't play a lot still have a lot to prove," Croshere said. "My real goal is to show Coach that I can contribute in the playoffs."
Howard scored 12 of the Mavs' 38 points in the third quarter and Dallas hit eight of its nine 3-pointers in the period to pull away. Jose Juan Berea's long-distance shot capped a 23-3 run for Dallas to close the period and give them an 86-66 lead heading into the fourth.
"When we're hitting shots, we play 'D,"' Foye said. "When we're not hitting shots, we don't play 'D.' That's been our M.O. all year."