- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DALLAS — Brendan Haywood came to Dallas to ease the burden on Erick Dampier’s balky left knee. Turns out a dislocated finger is giving the newest Mavericks player in the middle a chance to shine.

Haywood tied his career high with 20 rebounds — most of them uncontested while he controlled the lane on defense — and the Mavericks improved to 4-0 with him as their starting center in a 91-82 victory against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.

The 7-footer became a starter when Dampier injured his finger the first game after Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson were acquired from Washington on Feb. 13. He scored 13 points for his second straight double-double and added three blocks to anchor a defense that was struggling before the deal.

The Mavericks, whose four-game winning streak is their longest in two months, have held all five opponents since the trade to less than 100 points after the previous eight broke that mark.

“Both teams didn’t shoot well, so I had a lot of opportunities to get some rebounds,” said Haywood, who had 20 rebounds Jan. 15 at Chicago when he was still with the Wizards. “I was trying to attack the boards and be aggressive.”

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 23 points.

Playing his second straight game in his native Texas, T.J. Ford led the Pacers with 14 points.

Indiana played without Danny Granger, making it consecutive games that the Dallas opponent was missing its leading scorer. Granger didn’t play for unspecified personal reasons after Dwyane Wade sat out Miami’s loss in Dallas on Saturday night.

“Granger obviously is their go-to guy and he always makes big shots, so we definitely caught a break that he wasn’t here,” Nowitzki said.

Without Granger, the Pacers shot 26 percent in the first quarter and 37 percent for the game. Despite plenty of open 3-pointers, Indiana shot a season-low 13 percent (3 of 23) from beyond the arc.

“Got to make some shots to win in this league,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “We missed 27 open looks, and that was the difference in the game.”

Still, Indiana was down just eight in the third quarter before Jason Kidd had two of his seven assists and the punctuating 3-pointer on an 11-3 run that put the Mavericks ahead 64-48. Their lead was never less than nine after that.

Dallas wasn’t much better from the field, though. The Mavericks shot 39 percent, winning for just the fifth time this season when shooting less than 40 percent.

“We played a sloppy game,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, whose team faces the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. “The ball movement wasn’t crisp, and we had questionable shot selection. Defensively, we had too many breakdowns. We have to get better.”

Haywood was the exception. He had nine rebounds in the game’s first nine minutes, and his 10th was an emphatic put-back dunk in the closing seconds of the first half. During the key third-quarter run, he had four points, a rebound and a block.

“The guy has rejuvenated himself,” Jason Terry said. “It’s funny. When you’re on a losing team, people don’t see what kind of talent you have. Now that he’s with us, he’s able to showcase his skills.”

Coming off a 23-point night during a win in his hometown of Houston, Ford played despite a sore groin and kept the Pacers close in the first half. He led all first-half scorers with 10 points. He used his quickness to draw fouls, converting a three-point play and going 6 of 7 from the line.

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