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Dallas charges to lead

Nowitzki makes shots in clutch

Minutes away from finally leading their first-round playoff series, the Dallas Mavericks proved they deserved it.

Keeping alive rebounds, diving for loose balls, and making clutch shot after clutch shot, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks held off a late charge by visiting Houston and pulled out a 103-100 victory last night, putting them ahead, 3-2, in a series they trailed, 0-2, after their last game in Dallas.

After overcoming fourth-quarter deficits of 8 and 6 points to win the last two games, the Mavs led by 11 just seconds into the final period this time. But Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming rallied the Rockets, combining for their last 13 points and getting them within 2 with 7.4 seconds left.

Jason Terry scrambled to grab an inbounds pass, was fouled, and made one of two foul shots to restore a 3-point cushion. Dallas immediately fouled McGrady on the ensuing inbounds pass and he missed both foul shots -- the second intentionally -- but got his own rebound and put up a 3-pointer from the left corner that could have tied it. It missed and time expired with McGrady on the floor, practically under some courtside seats.

Wizards 106, Bulls 99 -- A blocked 3-point attempt on the first possession, an intercepted pass on the second, and a steal on the third. Who said Washington doesn't have a defense? The Wizards wouldn't let the visiting Bulls anywhere near the rim in the opening minutes, rattling their opponents early and often in a victory that evened their first-round series at two games apiece.

Juan Dixon, who appealed for his coach's faith in a parking lot powwow after a 1-for-10 performance in Game 3, scored a career-high 35 points, popping endless jumpers to help build the lead early and stave off the comeback threat until late.

Spurs 126, Nuggets 115 -- Tim Duncan is back, Manu Ginobili is still going and the Denver Nuggets are all but done. Duncan had his best game of the series (39 points), Ginobili provided the spark off the bench for the third straight game and Tony Parker scored 11 of his 29 points in overtime. That helped San Antonio move within a game of clinching its first round series. . . .
Pistons center Ben Wallace won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award for the third time in four years.

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