Butler, Nowitzki carry Mavs past Grizzlies

Dallas Mavericks got Caron Butler back on track offensively, and their
defense also showed signs of emerging from a recent slump.

Butler scored 23 points after managing 11 in his previous two games,
Dirk Nowitzki added 22 points and nine rebounds, and the Mavericks
stopped a two-game skid with a 110-84 victory over the Memphis
Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Butler, who
was 3 for 15 from the floor in the back-to-back losses, hit 10-of-17
field goal attempts and pulled down six rebounds against Memphis.

Butler studied tape the last few days in an effort to get better looks at the basket.

“I wanted to continue to stay aggressive,” Butler said. “I hit a rough
patch and I had to stay positive. A lot of other people were in panic
mode, but I’ve been here before. I wanted to keep looking for my shot
and do what I can to help the team win.”

Butler scored 11 in the opening quarter and 17 in the first half, his
best-scoring half since joining the Mavericks in a trade with
Washington on Feb. 13.

If the Mavericks hope to make a deep playoff run, they’ll need a productive Butler.

“He’s such a hard-driving, team-oriented guy who’s so into winning, and
he wants to feel like he’s pulling his weight,” Mavericks coach Rick
Carlisle said.

Jason Terry contributed 16
points, J.J. Barea had 14, and Jason Kidd had 12 points and 10 assists
for Dallas, which is battling Utah, Denver, Phoenix and Oklahoma City
for the No. 2 playoff seed in the West.

Dallas had been off for three days, and Carlisle’s focus at practice
was on improving a defense that had been burned for 100-plus points in
seven of the previous 11 games.

The Mavericks forced 20 Memphis turnovers and improved to 6-6 since the end of a season-best, 13-game winning streak.

Dallas scored 30 points off turnovers to eight for Memphis.

“We needed to play better basketball,” Carlisle said. “Any win you can
get right now is precious. It’s a positive step. I thought we were more
solid (defensively) than we’ve been the last few games.”

Rudy Gay scored 23 points for Memphis, which lost its ninth in a row on
the road against Dallas. Zach Randolph added 17 points and 13 rebounds,
and Mike Conley also scored 17 for the Grizzlies, who’ve dropped six of

“You can’t quit,” Conley said. “We
have goals like making the playoffs, and we understand that we aren’t
in it, but we still have to be able to play no matter who we are
playing or no matter who is out on the court. We have to play at 100
percent effort and we didn’t bring that tonight.”

The Grizzlies seemed weary after losing 113-103 to Houston at home on Tuesday night.

Dallas held a 78-66 edge after three quarters, and Terry opened the
final quarter with a dunk and a 3-pointer to stretch the advantage to
83-66. The Mavericks went on to lead by as many as 26 down the stretch.

The Grizzlies turned the ball over on each of their final five
possessions of the first quarter as Dallas finished the period with a
16-3 spurt.

“It was unbelievable, the
turnovers,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “We just kept giving
them the ball, giving them the ball, and they’d run it down our throat
or shoot 3s. Then they were moving the ball really well one stretch,
and every time they moved it to an open guy he made a shot. That just
broke our will.”

Kidd hit all three 3-point attempts in the first quarter to help Dallas to a 33-20 lead.

Turnovers plagued Memphis in the first half, with Dallas turning 12
miscues into 18 points to roll to a 46-26 advantage with 6:13 remaining
until halftime.

The Grizzlies took better care of the ball over the rest of the first half, reducing the deficit to 57-45 at the break.

Dallas F Shawn Marion (left oblique strain) missed his second straight
game. Butler moved to forward for Marion with G DeShawn Stevenson
getting his third start since joining the Mavs. … Barea tied a career
high with four steals. … Kidd was accidentally poked in the right eye
by Randolph while jostling for rebounding position late in the third
quarter. Kidd rolled to the floor in pain, but soon scrambled to his
feet and was able to continue after he was briefly checked out by team
trainer Casey Smith. … The Grizzlies’ last win in Dallas was on Nov.
26, 2005.

Received 04/08/10 12:10 am ET