- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

DALLAS (AP) - Dirk Nowitzki keyed a late fourth-quarter rally with great plays on both ends of the court, then Jason Terry hit an 18-foot jumper from the right side with 0.2 seconds left, giving the Dallas Mavericks a 96-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

Dallas wiped out a 7-point deficit with 3:13 left to avoid a horrible loss. Besides the Timberwolves being headed to the lottery, the Mavericks knew the New Orleans Hornets were getting drubbed in Houston. The win keeps alive their chances of claiming the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

That spot will be settled Wednesday night in the final game of the season. Dallas and New Orleans are tied and the Hornets hold the tiebreaker, so the only way the Mavs can move up is by beating Houston and by New Orleans losing at San Antonio.

Dallas still could drop to No. 8, although it would clinch No. 7 if Utah loses later Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Nowitzki scored 34 points and had nine rebounds, but some of his game-saving plays at the end went beyond the box score. They included knocking a ball from Sebastian Telfair to force a 24-second violation; a steal; a layup with 41.2 seconds left to tie it at 94; and _ most of all _ knocking the ball from Telfair with about 4 seconds left on a play that was credited as a steal by Erick Dampier, who ended up with the ball.

Dampier called time out, giving Dallas an inbounds play with 2.7 seconds left. The pass went to Terry and he made a quick move to shake Telfair. His shot swished and he turned around with no expression while the building erupted in cheers. It was the first time Dallas led since 53-52.

The Timberwolves had one last gasp chance, but _ guess who? _ Nowitzki got a hand on the inbounds pass.

Reserve Craig Smith scored a season-high 24 points and Telfair had 14 points and tied his season high with 12 assists, but Minnesota lost its 12th straight to Dallas _ and 15 of 17. This is a second straight heartbreaker for the Timberwolves; they blew a 29-point lead here in December.

Josh Howard got the night off to rest his chronic left ankle problem, and the Mavs hardly missed him as they jumped ahead by 13 in the first quarter.

Then Dallas went 8 minutes, 32 seconds between baskets over the middle two quarters, missing 14 straight shots along the way, and Minnesota grabbed control. Nowitzki was all the Mavs had going for them over long stretches.

For instance, he scored 17 of their first 19 points in the third quarter and he was the only Dallas player to take a free throw all the way until the fourth quarter.

Terry scored 22 and J.J. Barea had 12. Kidd had six points, eight assists and six rebounds. Dampier had six points and 13 rebounds.

This was win No. 49 for Dallas. A victory in the finale would make it nine straight years with 50.

Notes:@ Nowitzki extended his NBA-best streak of 20-point games to 24 in a row. … Barea should’ve looked more before a no-look, cross-court pass in the second quarter; it hit the rim and backboard. … Minnesota coach Kevin McHale on coaching: “It’s like being a player but not getting to play, which is the only fun part about being a player. It’s all that without the fun.” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is hoping his former teammate sticks around. “I hope he comes back because I think it’s great to have legendary players involved in the league,” Carlisle said.

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