Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 1/30

Game 1: Thursday, January 30th
Game 2: Tuesday, February 11th
Game 3: Monday, March 10th
Game 4: Sunday, March 30th

    12:30 PM ET, March 30, 2003

    Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

    1 2 3 4 T
    DAL 33 29 38 19119
    MIN 27 20 24 2495

    Top Performers

    Dal: D. Nowitzki 33 Pts, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk

    Min: K. Garnett 24 Pts, 11 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

    Nowitzki needs just 34 minutes to score 33

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Mavericks strengthened their hold on first place in the West, while the Timberwolves let another chance for home-court advantage slip away.

    Dirk Nowitzki

    Dirk Nowitzki scored 33 points in 34 minutes as Dallas beat Minnesota 119-95 Sunday, sending the lethargic Timberwolves to their third straight loss.

    Steve Nash had a season-high 15 assists to go with 14 points in just three quarters, and reserve Nick Van Exel contributed 19 points and nine assists.

    Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolves, who fell behind for good in the first half and were down by 29 points after three quarters.

    Michael Finley sat out his sixth straight game with a strained left hamstring, but the Mavericks didn't need him as they rebounded from a 112-95 defeat to Portland two days ago.

    While the Mavericks are trying to secure home-court advantage throughout the postseason, Minnesota is desperately seeking it for the first round -- something the Wolves have never had before. The Wolves dropped a half-game behind fourth-place Portland.

    "They knew the importance of the game, and I think we knew the importance, but they got us back on our heels,'' Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "It was like a heavyweight fight, where they gave us one, two, three haymakers and we were groggy for the last 47 minutes.''

    Dallas (55-18) owns the league's best record and has had a playoff berth sewn up for some time, but the San Antonio Spurs entered Sunday just two games back in the Midwest Division. If it doesn't finish first, Dallas can do no better than the No. 3 seed since the Midwest and Pacific Division winners get the top two spots.

    "We needed this in a big way,'' Van Exel said. "Every game is a difference-maker. Our schedule is tougher than (the Spurs') -- we can't afford to let it slip.''

    It's tough to figure out how a team can lose track of a 7-footer who can score from anywhere on the court, but the Timberwolves always have trouble keeping a man on Nowitzki.

    They tried Garnett, Wally Szczerbiak and some zones, but Nowitzki was 13-for-20 from the field. He finished with 136 points in four games against Minnesota this year.

    "We were just a little bit late in our rotations,'' Szczerbiak said, "and any time you give them shots like that, they're going to kill you.''

    With an earlier-than-usual 12:30 p.m. Central start time to accommodate ABC's national broadcast, the Wolves stayed in their slumber after allowing offensively challenged Miami to shoot 62 percent from the field in a 111-84 loss to the Heat on Friday.

    Rasho Nesterovic, in his second game back after missing five with a sprained ankle, had nine of his 11 points in the first half but was a step behind Shawn Bradley and Raef LaFrentz on the other end.

    Bradley, who totaled seven points in the teams' first three meetings this year, had 10 of his 12 points in the first half.

    LaFrentz had 11 of his 15 points in the second quarter as the Mavericks went on a 10-0 run midway through the period to open a 62-47 halftime lead.

    Dallas starts a three-game homestand Tuesday against New Orleans.

    "It feels good to win here after a long road trip, it feels good to win three of four, it feels good to win without Mike,'' coach Don Nelson said. "So woo-hah!''

    Game notes

    Minnesota missed a chance to clinch a seventh straight playoff berth. ... The Timberwolves placed point guard Rod Strickland on the injured list before the game and activated Igor Rakocevic. Strickland strained his groin Jan. 27, returned on March 18 and played only five minutes before re-injuring it. ... The Mavericks put G/F Walt Williams on the injured list with a strained left hamstring and activated C Evan Eschmeyer.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 119 95
    FGM-FGA 49-88 (.557) 35-82 (.427)
    3PM-3PA 11-23 (.478) 3-13 (.231)
    FTM-FTA 10-14 (.714) 22-31 (.710)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-40 8-35
    Assists 39 21
    Turnovers 12 11
    Steals 5 5
    Blocks 4 4
    Fast Break Points 6 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 27 (0/0) 18 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
    Points: 33
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Kevin Garnett Garnett
    Points: 24
    Reb: 11
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 2