Mavericks 99, Heat 93

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MIAMI (AP) – Jerry Stackhouse scored 16 of his 23 points in the final quarter, and the Dallas Mavericks withstood a rally by the Miami Heat for a 99-93 win Sunday in the first matchup between the teams since last season’s NBA finals.

Josh Howard had 25 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 22 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas, which improved its NBA-best record to 34-8 and won for the 20th time in its last 21 games.

Dwyane Wade finished with 31 points, six rebounds and six assists for Miami, but missed a potentially game-tying 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left. Jason Williams had 17 points and Udonis Haslem – who missed his first eight shots – had 15 for the Heat.

The Heat were down by 13 early in the second half and their chances clearly didn’t look good, especially with Shaquille O’Neal inactive for the 34th straight game because of his surgically repaired knee and as Wade hobbled around after spraining his ankle by stepping on Nowitzki’s foot late in the first quarter.

But Miami somehow pulled into a 90-all tie with 3 minutes remaining.

Miami was within 76-75 after a three-point play by Wade with 10:44 left, but Stackhouse scored seven straight points to quell the rally, restore some Dallas breathing room and give the Mavericks an 83-75 lead.

Another jumper by Stackhouse with 5:34 left pushed the Mavs’ edge to 90-84, but the Heat scored the next six points and tied the game 2 minutes later when Wade – after Howard inexplicably traveled 30 feet from the basket with no Heat defender near him – hit a jumper to tie the game.

Dallas scored the next six points, with Nowitzki and Howard scoring 26 seconds apart to put the Mavs back on top. Miami got back within 96-93 on a Wade layup with 57 seconds left, but the Heat wouldn’t score again and wound up with their 10th home loss of the season – matching the total from all of last year.

Jason Terry had 11 points and 11 assists for Dallas, which outrebounded Miami 48-35. Antoine Walker had 11 points for the Heat.

Dallas never trailed in the game, which was only tied once after tipoff. The Mavs held a 16-5 rebounding edge in the first quarter – Nowitzki had six boards that period alone – and disrupted Miami’s offense so much that the Heat managed three assists in the entire opening half.

Miami fell behind 53-40 after Nowitzki hit a jumper from a right elbow on the opening possession of the second half. But what looked poised to become a blowout quickly turned into a battle.

Dallas led by as many as 14 in the first half, before settling for a 51-40 halftime lead on Terry’s fallaway 3-pointer from the right corner with 0.5 seconds left until intermission.

And Miami probably felt fortunate to be that close.

Wade, who had 16 points and made six straight attempts during a 9-minute span of the first quarter before rolling his ankle, took only one shot in the second quarter and managed just one point in the period – a free throw with 15.9 seconds left.

Plus, the Heat frontcourt of Haslem (1-for-10, including a missed dunk), Alonzo Mourning (1-for-4) and Jason Kapono (0-for-3) combined to shoot 12 percent in the half. Meanwhile, Terry, Nowitzki and Erick Dampier teamed to make 13 of 24 shots in the opening half and score 33 of Dallas’ 51 points.

Notes: None of the three officials saw that a layup by Stackhouse was good with 2:39 left in the third. Following a brief conference, Joe Forte came over and asked the scorers’ table if the ball went in, after Stackhouse was awarded two free throws instead of the merited one on the play. … The teams meet again Feb. 22 in Dallas. … Dallas improved to 29-2 when holding teams under 100 points and 27-1 when recording more assists. … The Heat host the New York Knicks on Monday in a rare occurrence of home games in consecutive days.

AP-ES-01-21-07 1544EST

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