DALLAS (AP) -- The key players on the Dallas Mavericks and Los
Angeles Clippers were being preserved for the playoffs. That meant
more playing time for youngsters who were thrilled with the chance.
Then there was Corey Maggette.
Making the most of an otherwise meaningless season finale,
Maggette returned from a seven-game layoff and had 18 points and 11
rebounds to lead the Clippers over the Mavericks 85-71 Wednesday
"Maggette got back into a rhythm, that was good," Los Angeles
coach Mike Dunleavy said. "You saw how explosive he is. He can get
to the bucket and score."
Maggette was playing for only the 32nd time this season because
of a variety of injuries, with back spasms his latest problems. He
averages 17.8 points, second only to Elton Brand, so the Clippers
were happy to see him play 27 minutes and come away saying he
could've gone longer in their final tuneup for the playoffs.
"My back was a little sore," he said. "I got hit in the back
by one of their big guys, but it's no problem. I'm fine. It was
important to me to get out there. I wanted to test it out before we
go to the big dance."
With both teams locked into their playoff positions, Los Angeles
held out Brand and Sam Cassell, and Dallas gave Dirk Nowitzki his
first game off all season. The Clippers let rookie Boniface Ndong
make his first career start and the Mavs gave rookie Josh Powell
his second, plus let 2004 first-round pick Pavel Podkolzin make his
Dallas coach Avery Johnson also toyed with his lineups, using
two and sometimes three centers. As a result, the Mavericks tied a
franchise low for assists with six and went until the final minute
before extending their streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer
to 610. Fittingly, it came from center DeSagana Diop.
It was the first of his five-year career, and it even came on a
"You think I would've shot it if he didn't draw it up?" Diop
The game came close to being an NBA footnote by not having a 3.
Los Angeles' Walter McCarty ended that with 1:51 left.
Still, the result completed impressive regular seasons for both
Los Angeles picked up its 47th victory, marking the second-best
in franchise history and extending the most wins since the former
Buffalo Braves moved to California in 1978. The Clippers set
another franchise mark by winning their 20th road game. Seeded
sixth in the Western Conference, Los Angeles opens the playoffs
Saturday night at home against Denver.
The Mavericks -- who are seeded fourth and open the postseason at
home Sunday night against Memphis -- failed to set their franchise
victory record; at 60-22, they finished tied with the 2002-03 club
that reached the conference finals. But Dallas did set another club
mark: fewest points allowed per game, 93.1.
"We accomplished most of our goals, and now it's time to put it
all together," point guard Jason Terry said. "The results will be
sweet if we do."
The Mavericks got a scare in the second quarter when backup
point guard Darrell Armstrong sprained his right ankle. His health
is important because the regular backup, Devin Harris, has only
played seven minutes in five weeks.
"It's not too stiff," Armstrong said. "I'll be at practice on
Friday and I'll be ready to play on Sunday."
Rookie reserve Rawle Marshall led the Mavericks with 13 points.
Terry scored 12 and Powell scored 11 despite shooting 2-of-12.
Podkolzin had three points and seven rebounds in his NBA debut
and became an instant fan favorite. He got a nice ovation when he
entered, heard cries of "Shoot!" every time he got the ball and
was cheered for every good play, the best of them a block of a dunk
attempt by Maggette.
Because this was fan appreciation night, the Mavs had several
gimmicks. The best: American Airlines giving everyone a voucher for
a free flight and the Mavericks' jumbo-sized male cheerleaders
doing a high-kicking routine with four members of the Radio City
Johnson said F Keith Van Horn likely will be the 13th man
on the newly expanded playoff roster in hopes that his broken right
hand will recover in time for the later rounds. ... There's a catch
to the flight vouchers: They're only good on Love Field flights to
Austin, San Antonio, St. Louis and Kansas City. ... Nowitzki's
absence made Erick Dampier the only Dallas player to appear in all