SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -Long an offensive team that often regarded defense as an afterthought, the Dallas Mavericks have definitely altered that philosophy this season
The Mavericks are statistical leaders in several defensive categories, and showed why in their latest victory. Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points, Jason Terry had 23 and the Mavericks rallied for their ninth straight win, 105-103 over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.
The Mavericks outscored Sacramento 15-4 in the final 5 1/2 minutes to improve to 8-1 on the road and 16-4 overall. It was their seventh straight victory against Sacramento.
``That's our identity now, we hang our hat on it (defense),' Terry said. ``That started two years ago and we bought into it. That's the biggest thing we have going for us now.'
Terry scored eight points in the fourth quarter and came up with the biggest defensive play. After Jose Berea missed two free throws that could have sealed the victory, the Kings had the ball with 11.5 seconds left. Terry stole Carl Landry's pass near the baseline with several seconds remaining to secure the victory.
``Dirk got his hand on the pass, I rotated and was in the right spot at the right time,' Terry said.
Caron Butler had 11 points, and Chandler added 10 for the Mavericks, who forced five turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Tyreke Evans led Sacramento with 25 points and eight assists, Donte Greene had a season-high 19 points, rookie DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Beno Udrih added 16 points. The Kings have lost seven straight and 13 of 14.
Landry was apologetic regarding the final play when the Kings failed to get off a shot.
``Demarcus caught it, looked for Tyreke, who wasn't open, made a strong move and hit me,' Landry said. ``I just wasn't able to finish. I didn't make an aggressive move to the hoop and turned it over.'
Udrih made a pair of medium range jumpers at the 5:42 mark to give Sacramento a nine-point lead at 99-90. But the Kings went cold offensively and Dallas responded with an 11-2 run, capped by Terry's fast-break dunk that tied it at 101 with 1:13 remaining.
``I remember it was 99-90 (Kings) and we were able to lock them down from that point on,' Chandler said. ``We were able to close it out. This was huge one for us coming off a big win (Friday night) against Utah. Everyone was a little tired, but we withstood their runs.'
After Nowitzki's jumper put the Mavericks up by a point early in the fourth quarter, Francisco Garcia responded for the Kings. He converted layup and a pair of 3-pointers, scoring eight straight to put Sacramento in front 91-84 with 9:07 left.
Quiet in the first half with two points, Butler scored 11 points in the third quarter to help the Mavericks pull even at 80. Udrih scored nine points for the Kings.
In hopes of injecting more offense into his struggling team, Kings coach Paul Westphal inserted Cousins and Udrih into the starting lineup. The Kings had scored 85 or fewer points in five of the previous six games. The Kings made a season-high 11 3-pointers.
``I thought that the group that started played fantastically well,' Westphal said. ``We were moving the ball, we were hitting shots. we went toe to toe and got the better of a great team for most of the game.'
Greene scored 19 points and Evans had 16 in the first half when the Kings led 55-54. Nowitzki got Dallas going, scoring 15 of his 19 first-half points in the second quarter.
NOTES: Kidd was scoreless until converting on a three-point play in the third, and following with a 3-point shot. ... Greene made his first four shots, including a pair of 3-pointers in the opening period when the Kings had a season-best 37 points. ... Nowitzki made 11 of 15 shots and all three free throws. He didn't attempt a 3-pointer.
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