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Dallas, Nowitzki sweep Memphis

The Dallas Mavericks wanted to get this one over quickly. They sure picked the right opponent.

Dirk Nowitzki had 27 points and Josh Howard added 24 to lead the Mavericks over the Grizzlies, 102-76, last night in Memphis, Tenn. It was the first best-of-seven sweep for Dallas and an NBA-record 12th consecutive playoff loss for Memphis.

The Mavericks will face the winner of the San Antonio-Sacramento series, which is tied at two games apiece, in the Western Conference semifinals.

''You always want to close it out when you have the chance," Nowitzki said. ''We have some guys with some injuries, but I think we'll be all right in the second round."

Nowitzki, who averaged 32.7 points in the first three games, was 12 of 21 from the floor and made all three of his 3-point shots. Howard was 9 of 17 from the field with nine rebounds.

Pau Gasol led Memphis with 25 points and Mike Miller scored 10. They were the only Grizzlies in double figures.

The Grizzlies were swept for the third time in three consecutive playoff appearances, and fans began filing out of FedExForum early in the final period. Announced attendance was 15,104. The Grizzlies put a sellout at 18,119.

The Grizzlies already had the longest losing streak of any playoff team before a first postseason victory. The previous record of 11 consecutive playoff losses was set by Baltimore and matched by Denver.

Memphis was swept in the first round by Phoenix last year and San Antonio the year before.

Dallas began pulling away in the third period and went up, 62-47, after an 11-4 run that was sparked by two 3-pointers by Nowitzki and steals by Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Gasol lost the ball during the Dallas run when he bounced the ball off his foot on a dribble.

Pistons 109, Bucks 99 -- Host Milwaukee kept missing shots and mishandling the ball. Chauncey Billups kept hitting free throws.

Billups was 16 of 16 from the foul line and scored 34 points to send the Pistons back to Detroit with a 3-1 series lead. The Pistons can finish off the Bucks with a victory in Game 5 tomorrow night in Detroit.

The Bucks had taken an 86-85 lead on Joe Smith's jump shot with 5:52 remaining in the game. But the Pistons answered with an 8-0 run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Billups and Richard Hamilton, to put Detroit ahead for good.

Clippers 101, Nuggets 83 -- Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette each scored 23 points, Elton Brand added 21 points and 13 rebounds, and host Los Angeles took command in the third quarter to beat Denver and win the first-round best-of-seven Western Conference series 4-1.

The Clippers hadn't won a playoff series since 1976, when the team was playing in Buffalo and beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round before losing to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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