Nowitzki scores 39 in Mavs win

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Playoff-proven Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd made certain there was no letdown Saturday night as the Dallas Mavericks took another step toward securing the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Nowitzki connected on an array of shots in scoring 39 points, and Kidd had his 105th career triiple-double with 11 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Mavericks, rout the struggling Sacramento Kings 126-108.

The lopsided victory, combined with Denver’s loss to San Antonio, moved the Mavericks into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference playoff race.

Dallas is one game ahead of Denver with two games remaining for both teams. The Mavericks visit the Clippers on Monday night and conclude the regular season Wednesday at home against San Antonio.

The Mavericks clinched the Southwest Division with a victory Friday night in Portland and can finish no worse than the fourth seed.

“Obviously we would love to be the No. 2 seed (behind the Lakers),” Nowitzki said. “We would like to have home court advantage as long as we can. But you look at the bottom four teams, there are no easy match-ups.”

Dallas made the Kings seem like an easy match-up. The Mavericks shared the ball effectively, evidenced by their 27 assists. And they shot 53 percent overall, with even more efficiency from 3-point range where they connected on 13 of 21 attempts.

Kidd opened the game by hitting two jumpers and the Mavericks built a double-digit lead through much of the first quarter. The margin slipped to as low as six points in the second, but Dallas led by 12 at the half and the lead never dipped under double figures in the final two periods.

“We talked this morning about getting a big emotional win (Friday in Portland) and not having a letdown,” Nowitzki said. “We came out and set the tone early, pushing the ball and building the lead. And we kept making timely shots when we needed them.”

Jason Terry scored 25 points, and Caron Butler had 15 for Dallas, which has won three straight overall and four consecutive on the road.

“It was a solid win for us, everyone counts and we need them all,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “Each game has a critical meaning for the playoffs. Our guys are focused on that.”

Carl Landry scored 30 points, and Tyreke Evans had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Kings, who have lost nine of 10 games. Omri Casspi had 15 points, and Jason Thompson added 12.

“You want teams to shoot more 3-point shots as opposed to getting inside when you’re a smaller team like we are, but when they shoot 62 percent on 3s it’s hard to mount much of a comeback,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said.

Nowitzki connected on jumpers from short and long range in scoring 22 points in the third quarter. The perennial All-Star forward had the final 11 points for the Mavericks, who took a 100-79 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We just let him (Nowitzki)have easy shots and we weren’t contesting shots in the third quarter,” Landry said.

Nowitzki scored 40 points Friday night in a 83-77 win at Portland, and once again was the dominant for Dallas. He made 12 of 20 shots, had seven rebounds, and converted all 13 free throws.

Nowitzki broke his previous franchise record of 60 straight free throws in the third quarter and has hit 68 in a row. He hasn’t missed a free throw since the second quarter of a March 29 game against Denver.

“We’re going to (Dirk) no matter what. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, we have too many other weapons,” Kidd said. “He got going in the third, but we didn’t do anything different. We play our type of game, push the ball, move the ball, and he got a lot of good looks.”

Evans continued his quest to join Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only rookies to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. Evans is assured of those marks in assists and rebounds and needs 24 points in the final two games to reach the point total.

NOTES: Never at a loss for an opinion, Dallas owner Mark Cuban has one for Rookie of the Year and it’s not Evans. Cuban would vote for the Mavs’ Rodrigue Beaubois, who is averaging 7.1 points a game and started just 15 games this season. “Tyreke Evan’s 20-5-5 is phenomenal. But in defense of our rookie he’s 50 (shooting) percent from the floor, shooting 40 in 3s, and 80 percent from the free-throw line,” Cuban said before the game. “He’s been in the background of the race ” … Dallas starting forward Shawn Marion missed his third straight game because of a strained oblique muscle. … Dallas swept the four-game season and has beaten the Kings seven straight times.

Updated April 11, 2010