Mavericks Clinch Top Spot In Western Conference

Tuesday, April 10th 2007, 7:37 am
By: News On 6

The Dallas Mavericks can now sit back, relax and watch the rest of the Western Conference iron out the playoff picture.

Dallas clinched the top seed in the postseason with a 96-86 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 12 of his 26 points in a row during the third quarter, and Jerry Stackhouse scored 18 in a possible preview of a first-round playoff series.

With the victory, the two stars earned themselves a night off when the Mavericks head to Minnesota on Wednesday night.

``I told them if I see them on the plane, I'll fine them,'' Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.

While the Mavericks have clinched the top spot, the rest of the Western Conference playoff picture is still muddled. San Antonio and Phoenix are competing for the second and third seeds. Houston and Utah are neck-and-neck for the next two spots. Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers are vying for the sixth and seventh seeds.

Finally, Golden State is trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1994. The Warriors are percentage points ahead of the Clippers for the final spot.

``We tried everything we could do and we did it well some of the time, but we didn't do it enough,'' Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. ``Defensively, I thought in the first half we did a great job on Nowitzki, but in the second half we didn't do as good. ... We didn't get good enough help on him at times.''

In other games, it was: Denver 115, the Los Angeles Lakers 111; Golden State 126, Utah 102; Houston 95, Seattle 90; San Antonio 112, Portland 96; Toronto 111, Minnesota 100; Orlando 117, Milwaukee 94; and Detroit 91, New York 83.

In their first opportunity to wrap up the top spot, the Mavericks never trailed by more than a basket. They started pulling away in the final minutes of the first half, going up by seven at the break, then scored the first six points of the third quarter. Nowitzki's flurry followed, keeping Dallas comfortably ahead.

The Clippers got within nine points with about 2 minutes left. The shot clock nearly ran out on Dallas' next possession, but Josh Howard stepped back and nailed a 3-pointer with 1:41 left and the Mavericks pulled away for their franchise-record-extending 64th victory _ and the first No. 1 seed in club history.

``It's good we got that taken care of,'' said Howard, who scored 16 points.

Devin Harris scored 14 and Devean George had 11 for Dallas. The bad news for the Mavs was that center Erick Dampier left in the opening minutes with a sprained right shoulder. Johnson said Dampier was scheduled to have an MRI Tuesday, but was still expected to make the trip to Minnesota.

Nuggets 115, Lakers 111

Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points, including three free throws in the final 9 seconds to help host Denver get its season-high sixth straight win.

Kobe Bryant scored 23 points, nine below his league-leading average, and missed 21 of his 30 shots, including a 3-pointer that would have tied it with 2.7 seconds left.

Marcus Camby cradled the rebound and drew the foul. He made one free throw and Anthony swiped the long inbounds to seal Denver's win. Allen Iverson added 24 points for the Nuggets, who moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers for sixth place in the conference.

Warriors 126, Jazz 102

Stephen Jackson scored 28 points, Baron Davis had 19 and long-suffering Golden State climbed into the playoff picture with a victory.

Monta Ellis and Matt Barnes scored 16 points apiece for the Warriors (38-40), whose eighth victory in nine home games put them in eighth place in the Western Conference by a winning percentage of .0004 over the Los Angeles Clippers (37-39).

Al Harrington had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors, seeking their first postseason appearance since 1994.

Rockets 95, SuperSonics 90

Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming combined for 58 points, and visiting Houston ignored any distraction from the absence of teammate Bonzi Wells.

McGrady scored 21 of his 27 points in the first half, and Yao had 15 of his 31 in the third quarter. Yao finished 11-for-11 at the free-throw line, and grabbed seven rebounds.

Houston didn't show any affects from the unknown absence of backup guard Bonzi Wells, who didn't join the team for its morning walkthrough and wasn't at the arena Monday night. Before the game, coach Jeff Van Gundy said he hadn't talked to Wells and his concern was that Wells was OK.

Spurs 112, Trail Blazers 96

Tony Parker scored 30 points to help host San Antonio beat Portland.

The Spurs trail idle Phoenix by two games for the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Each team has five games remaining.

Jarrett Jack and Jamaal Magloire each scored 19 points to lead the Trail Blazers, who shot 51 percent from the field.

Raptors 111, Timberwolves 100

Anthony Parker scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and visiting Toronto rallied for the win.

The Raptors, tops in the East with a 32-15 mark since Jan. 1, closed within one game of idle Chicago and Cleveland for the second-best record in the conference.

Magic 117, Bucks 94

At Milwaukee, Hedo Turkoglu scored 25 points to help Orlando match its best shooting performance of the season.

It was the second straight victory for the Magic, who are trying to hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

Orlando shot 62.5 percent from the field, the best shooting performance allowed by Milwaukee all season. Orlando also shot 62.5 percent in a Feb. 2 victory over New Jersey.

Ersan Ilyasova scored 18 points to lead the Bucks, who will be without leading scorer Michael Redd (left knee injury) the rest of the season.

Pistons 91, Knicks 83

Chauncey Billups scored 22 points, and visiting Detroit moved to the verge of clinching the top seed in the East.

Richard Hamilton added 19 points, including a pair of baskets in a late spurt that let the lethargic Pistons pull out the win and lower their magic number to one for clinching the home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs.

Eddy Curry and Nate Robinson scored 24 points apiece for New York.