Wed, May 03, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Nowitzki, Howard lead Mavericks past Grizzlies

BASKETBALL The Mavericks crushed the Memphis Grizzlies 102-76 on Monday to clinch Dallas' first best-of-seven sweep in their Western Conference quarter-final

AP , MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Memphis Grizzlies forward Shane Battier, foreground, and Dallas Mavericks center Erick Dampier (25) watch a rebound bounce away in the first quarter of an NBA basketball playoff game in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday. Grizzlies players Pau Gasol (16) of Spain, Lorenzen Wright (42) and Chucky Atkins (32) look on.

PHOTO: AP

Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and Josh Howard added 24 to lead the Mavericks over the Grizzlies 102-76 on Monday night, Dallas' first best-of-seven sweep 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.

Nowitzki, who averaged 32.7 points in the first three games, was 12-of-21 from the floor and made all three of his three-point shots, while Howard was 9-of-17. Howard had 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. The previous record of 11 consecutive playoff losses was set by Baltimore and matched by Denver.

Pistons 109, Bucks 99

At Milwaukee, Chauncey 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 tonight 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 93-86 with 3:47 remaining.

Michael Redd led the Bucks with 33 points, including 15 in the first half to lead all scorers. The Pistons held Redd to 11 points in the first game of the series, but the Bucks' leading scorer had 40 in Saturday's victory in Milwaukee.

Clippers 101, Denver 83

At Los Angeles, Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette each scored 23 points, Elton Brand added 21 points and 13 rebounds, and the Clippers took command in the third quarter to beat the Denver Nuggets 101-83 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 Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The franchise moved to San Diego in 1978, then to Los Angeles in 1984. The Clippers are in the playoffs for just the seventh time in their 36-year history, only the fourth time since heading west, and the first time in nine years.

The Clippers meet the winner of the Lakers-Suns series in the second round. The Lakers took a 3-1 lead into last night's game in Phoenix. Should the Clippers face the Lakers, it would be the first postseason meeting ever between Los Angeles teams in the NBA, NFL or major league baseball.

Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points, Greg Buckner added 20 and Andre Miller had 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets, who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year. They haven't won a postseason series since 1994.

French forward Boris Diaw went from being an afterthought in the Joe Johnson trade to winner of the National Basketball Association's most improved player award.

The versatile Phoenix Suns frontcourt man was a landslide choice with 80 first-place votes in balloting by 124 sports writers and sportscasters. He received 489 overall points, compared with 22 first-place votes and 283 points for runner-up David West of New Orleans.

With the Suns trailing 3-1 in their first-round, best-of-seven playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, and coming off a 99-98 overtime loss on Sunday, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni joked that "at least we get to do something fun today" as he presented the award at a news conference on Monday.

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