Mavericks 95, Cavaliers 92

Friday, March 2nd 2007, 6:51 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ LeBron James already had zipped down the baseline and thrown down a dunk so impressive that his teammates _ who've certainly seem him do some amazing things _ were awed by it. He'd already twisted his way around fellow All-Star Josh Howard during a one-on-one breakaway. And he'd made 15 of his other 23 shots.

That's why it was so hard to believe how cold he turned in the final 13.7 seconds against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.

James missed a pair of free throws, then two 3-pointers, letting the Mavericks hang on for a 95-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, extending Dallas' latest winning streak to a club-record-tying 14.

``We were fortunate enough to win it,'' Dallas coach Avery Johnson said.

James had 39 points, five assists and three rebounds, plus shut down Dirk Nowitzki over the final five minutes. Cavs coach Mike Brown called it James' second-best performance of the season. James himself acknowledged it was ``the best I've felt in a while.''

``I wanted to be focused and our team could tell,'' he said. ``I tried to be as aggressive as possible.''

And it still wasn't enough, not against a team that's won 21 straight at home.

``They have a lot of weapons. They're definitely the favorite in the West,'' James said. ``We played a good game, but it doesn't make me feel good because we lost. We aren't happy to just come close.''

In other games, Portland routed Charlotte 127-90; and Seattle edged the Los Angeles Clippers 77-75.

In the showdown of MVP contenders James and Nowitzki, the difference between winning and losing was balance.

The Mavericks got 24 points from Nowitzki, 20 from Jason Terry and 17 from Howard, plus 10 each from Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier. Even DeSagana Diop chipped in a season-high eight.

With Cleveland's second-leading scorer Larry Hughes out with the flu, James' four fellow starters combined for 22 points. That included zilch from center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 19 minutes and 11 from Hughes' replacement, Sasha Pavlovic.

Nowitzki and Terry each scored 10 in the fourth quarter. However, Nowitzki was 0-for-3 with two fouls and a turnover, plus a 24-second violation for the team, over the final 5:11, once James got in his way.

Dallas led 92-82 with 4:08 left following a 3-pointer by Terry, but James answered with a 3 of his own. He later added a three-point play to get Cleveland within three with 41 seconds left.

After a defensive stand by the Cavaliers, James streaked for a layup, but Nowitzki shoved him out of bounds so hard James went sprawling into the third row of seats behind the basket. Once he gathered himself, he missed both foul shots.

Cleveland got the ball back out of bounds at midcourt and James quickly put up a 3. The rebound bounced back to him and he had another chance to set up and shoot for the tie, but again came up short.

``I got good looks on both shots,'' James said. ``I'll take those looks any day.''

Dallas already had streaks of 12 and 13 wins this season, so hitting 14 seems like a natural progression. The Mavs have lost only twice since Dec. 11 and just came off a perfect February that earlier Thursday earned Nowitzki and Johnson the Western Conference player and coach of the month awards.

The bid for No. 15 comes at home Saturday night against Orlando.

Trail Blazers 127, Bobcats 90

Rookie LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 points, Zach Randolph and Martell Webster each added 20, and the host Trail Blazers capped a strange day with a victory over the Bobcats.

Hours earlier, Blazers president and general manager Steve Patterson abruptly resigned after owner Paul Allen decided not to renew his contract.

At halftime, with Portland ahead 60-40, Allen gave a press conference where he affirmed his recommitment to the Blazers and pledged to follow through on efforts to buy back the Rose Garden Arena, which he lost two years ago in bankruptcy.

The Blazers also lost center Joel Przybilla for the season after an MRI revealed the need for arthroscopic surgery. Matt Carroll had 20 points and Gerald Wallace added 13 for the Bobcats, who matched a season high with their fourth consecutive loss.

SuperSonics 77, Clippers 75

Rashard Lewis scored 31 points to lead host Seattle.

Lewis gave the Sonics a 77-73 lead on a jumper with 24.8 seconds left. A pair of free throws by Corey Maggette with 9.3 seconds left brought the Clippers back within two.

The Sonics lost the inbounds pass, giving the Clippers a chance to tie, but Elton Brand's 16-footer at the buzzer hit off the back rim.

Seattle was without leading scorer Ray Allen, who missed the game with inflammation in his left ankle. He has been dealing with the injury for the past month and decided just before the game that the ankle was not responding well enough to play.

Brand scored 22 points to lead the Clippers.