Mavericks 104, Timberwolves 97

Dirk Nowitzki and his smooth, soaring jump shot were in prime

form.

What truly made the Mavericks too tough for the sloppy

Timberwolves to handle was the presence of their savvy old point

guard, Jason Kidd.

Nowitzki welcomed Kevin Love back from his two-game suspension

with a season-high 33 points, winning the matchup of Western

Conference All-Star power forwards and helping Dallas stave off a

Minnesota in a 104-97 victory over on Friday.

”He makes the game so much easier for everyone,” said Jason

Terry, the other part of the veteran trio that steadied the

Mavericks down the stretch after a 19-5 run spurt by the Wolves

brought them within 78-75 on Nikola Pekovic’s putback to open the

fourth quarter.

Kidd, playing for the first time in seven games due to a

strained right calf muscle, responded by swishing a 3-pointer to

stretch the lead to six with 10:15 left.

”He’s a big part of our heart and soul. When we’re without him,

we can win some games but we’re not the same team,” Mavericks

coach Rick Carlisle said.

Terry had nine of his 16 points in the final period. Kidd had

eight points, 10 assists and five rebounds. The Mavericks blamed

most of his eight turnovers on teammates unprepared for his slick

passes, since they hadn’t seen them in a while.

Kidd joked it must’ve been fan appreciation night because of all

the balls being thrown into the seats. He didn’t have time to think

about his big shot because he was huffing and puffing on the

stationary bike behind the bench – riding all the way across the

river to St. Paul, he joked – until entering the game 17 seconds

before.

”Whatever I can do to help my team,” he said.

Nowitzki topped 24 points for the fourth straight game by

shooting 11 for 19 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from 3-point

range. Love finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds, going 14 for

14 from the free-throw line, but the Wolves missed a chance to

sweep the season series from a Western Conference foe since beating

the Memphis Grizzlies all three times in 2008-09.

”That is definitely vintage Dirk. He’s a Hall of Fame player

and when he decides he wants it, more often than not he’s going to

have success,” Love said.

The Wolves had a season-high 28 turnovers and shot just 6 for 23

from 3-point range.

”Just being a youthful team, we’re going to have lapses like

that and unfortunately it was against a team that we beat a couple

of times,” Love said.

Love was punished for stepping on Luis Scola’s face against the

Houston Rockets last weekend. He was by far Minnesota’s most

productive player in his return, but his was still a rather quiet

performance. He made nine of 12 shots from 3-point range over the

Wolves’ two previous wins over the Mavericks, but he went 0 for 3

behind the arc in this one.

Nowitzki, named to his 11th straight All-Star game despite a

relatively slow start to his 13th season, has clearly worked

himself back into shape. After averaging less than 10 points over

the three games prior to this spurt, Nowitzki is averaging 28

points in the last four games while shooting 60.5 percent. Though

he lost his touch late, he seemed to have an extra edge against

Love. The two of them bumped elbows and torsos in the post all

night.

”He’s been fun to watch. He’s an animal on the glass. We all

know that. He’s tough to play,” Nowitzki said.

The Wolves (13-14) still haven’t had a record this good this

late in a season in six years. The Mavericks (16-11) didn’t have to

be convinced. They were blown out in both of the first two

meetings.

But the league’s oldest team still has plenty of pride – and

championship rings on their fingers. They showed the Wolves, who

were the second-youngest team in the NBA when this lockout-sliced

season began, that they’re still a team to be reckoned with in the

top-heavy West.

The Wolves made only two baskets outside the lane in the first

quarter and fell behind 29-16; Love and Wes Johnson combined to

shoot 1 for 8 in that frame. Nowitzki’s first 3-pointer made it

11-6 Mavericks, and the Wolves didn’t get back within five again

until a flying putback dunk by Derrick Williams at the end of the

third.

”We threw passes away when we worked hard defensively and got

the ball back. We just threw it away like there was no value to the

ball,” coach Rick Adelman said, lamenting what he called a lack of

concentration.

The Mavericks took advantage of the small Wolves backcourt by

posting up Vince Carter often, and Nowitzki made them pay when they

switched to a zone.

”His presence opens so much up for everyone else. That’s called

an All-Star presence, to me. It’s not always about the numbers,”

said Mavericks backup Delonte West, who had 10 points.

NOTES: The Mavericks are 8-1 when they score 100-plus points

this season. … Ricky Rubio reached 10 points with a late push and

had eight assists for the Wolves. Pekovic had 12 points, and

Michael Beasley scored 20 points in his new reserve role.