- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Just when Dallas needed it most, Shawn Marion returned to the high-scoring form that has been absent all season.

That’s been the story of this remarkable run for the Mavericks.

Marion had a season-high 29 points and 14 rebounds and the Mavericks stretched the league’s longest active winning streak to 12 straight games with a 125-112 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

“I’ve done that before,” Marion said with a chuckle about his monster line. “That’s easy.”

What isn’t so easy is the unselfishness he’s shown this season. Marion has averaged at least 17 points a game seven times in his career, but he has taken a reduced role on offense this season in order to focus more on the defensive end. Marion entered the game averaging a modest 11.5 points a game and had a season high of 18 before Monday night’s outburst.

“Every week I tell him how important he is to us and how much as a coach I appreciate what he’s done this year in terms of changing his game around,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s the guy that’s made the biggest adjustment of any of the new guys that we’ve got and it’s showing up in wins and losses.”

Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points and Caron Butler had 23 for Dallas, which has flourished since acquiring Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline.

The Mavericks (44-21) haven’t lost since Feb. 16 at Oklahoma City and have climbed into second place in the Western Conference, not far behind the Los Angeles Lakers (46-18).

Al Jefferson had 36 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota in his return from a two-game suspension because of a DWI arrest.

But the Timberwolves committed 26 turnovers and lost their sixth straight and 12th in the last 13 games. Wolves rookie point guard Jonny Flynn had eight of those turnovers and the Mavs turned all those mistakes into 32 points.

“A lot of it was just careless mistakes,” Jefferson said. “We just didn’t take care of the ball. We’ve just been kind of struggling with that all year.”

Things got testy in the fourth quarter when Wolves forward Ryan Hollins was ejected after hitting Nowitzki in the head with a forearm shot.

Nowitzki was not hurt on the play, but it was the second confrontation of the game for Hollins, who tangled with DeShawn Stevenson in the first quarter.

“Hollins is a little out of control, but hey, it happens out there,” Nowitzki said with a shrug.

Hollins was not available for comment after the game, but coach Kurt Rambis said he didn’t think the act was malicious.

“I don’t like some of his decision-making, but I like his aggressiveness,” Rambis said. “When guys play hard, there’s a lot of physical contact, tempers are going to flare.”

Despite owning the Western Conference’s worst record for most of the season, the Timberwolves have been surprisingly competitive against the powerful Mavericks. They won in Dallas on Feb. 5, then pushed the Mavs to the limit in a 112-109 loss at Dallas last week without Jefferson.

The Wolves’ big man started strong in his first game back from the suspension, hitting his first five shots and scoring 11 points in the first six minutes of the game to help the Timberwolves take a 19-9 lead.

“I was just real anxious to get back,” Jefferson said. “I felt like I let my teammates down, let my fans down, and I was real anxious to get back to try to get a win. My confidence went up.”

Nowitzki went to the bench with his second foul just over 90 seconds into the game, and the Wolves looked to be in good shape when Marion picked up his second foul later in the first quarter. But when Jefferson went to the bench for a breather, the Mavs ripped off a 15-0 run to take a 32-23 lead and were barely threatened the rest of the way.

Eduardo Najera filled in nicely for Nowitzki in the first quarter and Marion’s quirky jumper was falling all night.

It’s been that way for the Mavericks throughout this superb surge, with several role players coming up big. When Jason Terry had facial surgery last week, rookie Rodrigue Beaubois responded by averaging 21.0 points in the next three games to keep the team rolling.

On Monday, it was Marion’s turn.

“I want to win,” Marion said. “At the end of the day, you have to make sacrifices to win. … Ultimately, I’ve done a lot of things in this league and I want to win a championship. I want to leave that as my legacy.”

Haywood did not play for the second straight game because of a tight lower back and Erick Dampier has been out 12 games with a finger injury, so the Mavericks have played more zone defense to make up for the lack of a big man in the middle.

“It’s been a true team,” Carlisle said. “Somebody’s down a little, somebody else picks him up. Guys are competitive. Guys have stuck together, cheering for each other in the games. When you get on a roll like this, those kinds of things have got to happen.”

NOTES: Mavs PG J.J. Barea left late in the game with a left ankle injury. … Wolves SG Corey Brewer extended his team record with a 3-pointer in his 28th straight game. … Jefferson on the “Hurt Locker” bringing home six Oscars on Sunday night: “I’m not hating on that movie, but it was just a long, boring movie.”

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