Mavericks 126, Kings 108

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 homecourt

advantage as long as we can. But you look at the bottom four teams,

there are no easy matchups.”

Dallas made the Kings seem like an easy matchup. The Mavericks

shared the ball effectively, evidenced by their 27 asssts. 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 morrning 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.