- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

For most of the season, the Washington Wizards have beaten the odds and succeeded against the best teams in the league.

The Dallas Mavericks are unquestionably part of that upper echelon, and last night they arrived at Verizon Center with an injury-depleted roster and took the Wizards apart.

After playing coy with the Wizards and allowing them to build confidence in a nip-and-tuck first half, the Mavericks shifted into an altogether higher gear — one the Wizards don’t know yet — and easily handled them in the second half en route to a 104-94 victory in front of 18,954 that ended the Wizards’ three-game winning streak.

Dallas (52-14) rode strong games from Dirk Nowitzki (25 points and 13 rebounds) and Jason Terry, who finished with 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting.

The Mavericks played their starters to the end and outrebounded the Wizards 45-35. They also shot better, connecting on 50 percent of their field goals compared to the Wizards’ 44 percent.

Most of the Wizards’ problems were generated by Nowitzki, a 7-footer who won the 3-point shooting contest at the All-Star Game last month and is simply a matchup nightmare.

“It didn’t matter whether we had a 7-footer on him, a 6-9 guy on him, a quick guy on him, whether we switched, showed or rotated,” exasperated Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “He’s a good passer, too. It was just a struggle all night trying to put ourselves in a position to win.”

The Mavericks won despite missing Devin Harris, Josh Howard, Keith Van Horn and Adrian Griffin.

But when a team is playing as well as the Mavericks are, according to Washington’s Antonio Daniels, the missing pieces aren’t that big of an issue.

“That team is [52-14] for a reason. That is a very good basketball team. They have very good chemistry, and they play together,” said Daniels, who finished with 17 points and a team-high six assists. “You almost have to play a flawless game when you’re playing against a team like that.”

The Wizards have scored huge wins over elite teams this season, twice beating Eastern Conference champion Detroit. They also have wins over Phoenix and defending champion San Antonio.

But the Wizards also have been dominated by some of the league’s best, unable to end streaks of futility. Miami has beaten them 15 straight times, including the four-game sweep last year in the playoffs, and the Mavericks own them as well.

Dallas has won five straight over the Wizards, seven of the last eight played here and 12 of the last 15 overall.

The Wizards were anything but flawless last night, especially in the second half.

Washington kept pace and entered halftime trailing by two, but Dallas quickly took a 10-point lead in the third quarter and extended it to 14. When the Wizards cut the lead to eight, the Mavericks responded with a 9-0 run to widen their lead four minutes into the fourth.

Fans spent the next eight minutes of the game leaving Verizon Center. Those who stayed saw the game end with the ball in the hands of former Wizard Jerry Stackhouse, who finished with 17 points and five assists.

Booed for much of the night, Stackhouse smiled and waved to the remaining fans.

“Keep it coming, keep it coming,” Stackhouse said later. “It’s all good. Makes me guess the last time I was here they were booing me, I had 29. And I had a pretty good game tonight. Hopefully they’ll continue it next year.”

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