Another milestone for Dirk Nowitzki

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Another milestone for Dirk Nowitzki

From Comcast SportsNet
DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are slowly starting to perform a little more like the defending NBA champs. Nowitzki scored 20 points in his 1,000th NBA game to lead the Mavericks to a 98-89 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. Jason Terry contributed 18 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, to help the Mavs (3-4) string together consecutive wins for the first time this season. "We said at the beginning, we're going to be a piece of work and everybody is going to come along and I think this team is more set up to peak down the stretch and not now," Nowitzki said. "Everybody's got to work themselves back into shape, get the legs strong and play with each other more and I think we're going to be a good team down the stretch." Lamar Odom added 15 points and five rebounds in his best game since joining the Mavericks in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 11. But Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said Odom can do better in just about every area. "He had good stats, but there are areas where he needs to improve." Carlisle said. Steve Nash had 15 points and 12 assists for the Suns (2-4), while Marcin Gortat had 22 points and 10 rebounds. The Mavericks lost their first three games while trying to introduce five new faces into the lineup after the departures of five key players from the team that won its first title last season. Now the Mavericks are playing with more cohesion and energy, winning three of four. "These are steps in the right direction," said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who had 13 points despite being listed as questionable before the game due to illness. "Things are starting to click on both ends of the floor." Nowitzki is the team's career leader in most categories, including points. He already had the record for games played and was appearing in his 975th game as a starter. "I'm still working to get back to where I was," said Nowitzki, MVP of the NBA Finals last season. "It's definitely good to get to 1,000 games, that's a lot of games and means I was healthy a lot and I was able to help my team and this franchise a lot. It's great and now we're looking for another 1,000, we'll see how far we can take it." The Mavs broke the game open with a 13-4 third-quarter run capped by five straight points from Nowitzki, including a three-point play for a 62-49 lead. Terry hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to make it 77-66. "It was a 3-point momentum play at the end of the quarter, a huge play," Carlisle said. Terry connected on three more from behind the arc early in the fourth, the final one pushing the Mavs' advantage to 92-71 with 7:46 remaining. The Suns kept hustling and trimmed the deficit to 96-87 on Nash's 3-pointer with 2:50 to play, but the Phoenix couldn't get any closer. The Mavericks were up at halftime, 49-41 behind Nowitzki's 13 points. For the game, the Suns were outrebounded 53-42, 19-11 on the offensive glass. "I think we gave up tons of offensive rebounds," Nash said. "We held them to 41 percent shooting which is more than acceptable, but we missed a lot of shots. We're OK offensively, but you can't give up so many offensive rebounds like we did tonight." Terry and Odom led Dallas to a 51-21 advantage in bench scoring. "That's where the separation came, with the second units," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's where the lead came and it was hard for us to overcome." NOTES: Nowitzki is the 98th player in NBA history with at least 1,000 games. ... The teams met for the first time this season. Dallas swept all four games last season. ... Recently-signed Phoenix G Michael Redd has begun working back into basketball shape but Gentry said Redd won't be ready to be activated for 10-14 days. ... Football players from Arkansas and Kansas State were in attendance. The teams meet Friday in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. ... Dallas' Jason Kidd appeared in his 1,274th regular-season game, tying Terry Porter for 16th on the NBA's career list. Kidd is the league's active leader in games played.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."