- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

DALLAS — With so many new parts, the Dallas Mavericks are still a ways off from playing championship-caliber basketball.

That kind of performance only comes in spurts these days for the Mavericks, who return only six players from a team that won 60 games last season.

Last night in their 97-72 victory over the Washington Wizards, the Mavericks clicked just long enough to shrug off the pesky Wizards in front of 19,529 at American Airlines Center.

For the Wizards (6-11), who suffered their biggest defeat this season, it was another discouraging loss. The setback was their fifth in their last six games, and they have lost nine of their last 12.

The Mavericks (12-6), who improved to 10-0 at home, led from start to finish. But the Wizards never fell too far off the pace in the first half.

That all changed in the third quarter.

Following a short jumper by Washington’s Jarvis Hayes that pulled the Wizards within 54-46, Dallas suddenly found its rhythm just long enough to take the fight out of the Wizards.

Over the next eight minutes, the Mavericks outscored the Wizards 21-9, pushing their lead to 75-55 and putting themselves in position to cruise to victory. Washington never mounted a serious challenge in the fourth quarter.

“I really admire the way the Mavericks play,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They play a fun style. They know how to pick up mismatches. We were a little bit out of bullets tonight. … We played as hard as we could play. We made mistakes, but we give a lot of credit to our opponent.

The Wizards already were without the services of Jerry Stackhouse and Gilbert Arenas, and they learned earlier in the day reserve center Etan Thomas would miss another game with the flu.

There’s little reason to believe Thomas would have made much of a difference last night. The Wizards were outrebounded 63-44, made just 32 percent of their shots and saw the Mavericks convert 17 turnovers into 26 points.

Larry Hughes led the Wizards with 12 points. Brendan Haywood pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds and had four of the Wizards’ 12 blocked shots.

“They got it going against us in the third,” Haywood said. “We made too many mistakes tonight, and they took full advantage of them. You can’t do that against a good team like Dallas.”

Dallas placed five players in double figures, led by Antawn Jamison’s game-high 21 off the bench. Michael Finley added 16 and grabbed 12 rebounds, making him one of four Dallas players with at least 10 boards.

Dallas also was short-handed. All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki missed the game with a sprained ankle. Even without him, the Mavericks have as many offensive options as any team in the league, and they utilized all of them. If it wasn’t a blistering penetration to the basket by Tony Delk, then it was Jamison or Finley pouring it on.

The Wizards pulled within 36-33 on Steve Blake’s 3-pointer with 5:20 left in the first half, but Mitchell Butler’s running layup about a minute later was their only other field goal before halftime.

The Mavericks outscored the Wizards 10-4 the rest of the way, with most of the damage by Jamison, who scored 10 points in the second quarter.

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