Mavs crush Knicks in Dallas

Dallas 108, Knicks 79
March 11, 2008 5:54:32 AM PDT
Dirk Nowitzki had his back pressed to the floor, his right eye closed and a scratch puffing up around it just minutes into Monday night's game against the New York Knicks.When Mavericks coach Avery Johnson got to his star player, he wondered whether it would take minutes or hours for Nowitzki to see again.

"We didn't know what was going to happen when he opens it back up," Johnson said.

Nowitzki turned out to be just fine. And Johnson hardly had to sweat the rest of the night.

Nowitzki scored 18 points in 22 minutes, then was among four starters who got to take the last quarter off as the Mavericks polished off a 108-79 victory over the listless Knicks.

Wins don't get much easier than this, with the Mavericks scoring 32 points in the first quarter and the Knicks scoring 31 in the first half. Dallas won its second straight and hasn't trailed in either, the kind of spark Johnson was looking for at the start of a five-game stretch against teams with losing records.

"This gives us a chance to get our feet under us," said Johnson, whose club is getting used to having Jason Kidd and being without the three rotation players traded to get him. "We need some small victories within these games we're playing now. ... It's a good time for us to lay some sort of foundation."

Johnson listed a long list of positives from this one - Kidd and Josh Howard hooking up for easy baskets, Jason Terry scoring 18 off the bench and all the minutes logged by the backups.

"We've got to make the most out of these games to get better," Nowitzki said.

Only problem was, Dallas could've had tougher competition in an intrasquad scrimmage.

Even with Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, their top two scorers, returning to the lineup, the Knicks made only one of 13 shots to start the first quarter, then did it again to start the second quarter. They trailed by 28 before halftime on their way to a seventh straight loss.

Afterward, New York coach Isiah Thomas couldn't stop talking about Jason Kidd.

Actually, Thomas' entire postgame news conference was answering one question about Kidd. He took off after that.

"He gets them out in transition. He gets them a lot of easy baskets," Thomas said. "In that first quarter, every time we missed a shot - we came out cold - and every time that we missed a shot it was a fast-break layup, and everything was initiated by Kidd. He's a great player."

Randolph, who'd missed the last five games because of a bruised foot and personal reasons, scored 21 points. Crawford, who missed only one game because of a bruised right hand, had 13 points. David Lee had 14.

"I actually felt pretty good," Randolph said. "I felt better than I thought I would."

The Mavericks haven't trailed in either of their first two games in this soft part of their schedule. They're now 6-5 since Kidd arrived, with all six wins against teams with losing records.

Kidd was Dallas' only starter to play in the fourth quarter, and he logged only 100 seconds. He finished with eight points, nine assists and five rebounds - and his first victory over the Knicks this season.

"Every team has their problems and their ups and downs," he said. "The thing is their downs have been so publicized. They have a lot of talent. It's a matter of being healthy and playing at a high level."

Howard scored 14 points and Jerry Stackhouse had eight.

Nowitzki became Dallas' franchise scoring leader the previous game, then started padding his lead with the first two baskets of this game, a spinning bank shot and a 3-pointer in transition. The Mavericks had 17 fast-break points in the first quarter, while the Knicks had 15 total points.