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Wizards vs. Mavericks: Nowitzki helps Mavs send Wizards to 0-24 on road this season

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki pumps his fist during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards in Dallas on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike Fuentes)
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki pumps his fist during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards in Dallas on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike Fuentes) (Mike Fuentes - AP)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 2:22 AM

DALLAS - The Washington Wizards know heartache and bad breaks, bad bounces and mistakes, and they continue to suffer through them all during a road losing streak that has become a burden for more reasons than the obvious.

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The players cannot escape the questions, the pain that comes with each defeat - or being the butt of jokes. But as the losses grow, so does the awareness of their foes. They don't have the luxury, like other bad teams, of sneaking into visiting arenas and getting overlooked. On most nights, the Wizards are all but guaranteed that their opponents, even elite teams, will give one of their best efforts simply because they don't want to be a part of history.

At the morning shoot-around, several Dallas Mavericks players, including former Wizard DeShawn Stevenson spoke about how they didn't want to be the team that allowed Washington to end its road misery. "No way," Stevenson said. "We got to keep that streak going."

The Wizards made the Mavericks nervous, for nearly 47 minutes, battling through a poor shooting night, until Jason Kidd hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 49.8 seconds remaining to secure a 102-92 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Center. The loss dropped the Wizards to 0-24 on the road - the third-worst road-losing streak to start a season in NBA history - and sent home a recurring theme that the challenge of making it stop will get more difficult.

"Every night, we've got to play extra, extra hard, because nobody wants to be that first team to lose," Nick Young said after scoring 18 points. "That's hard. That's something we've got to get in our mind: We've got to fight even harder."

Rashard Lewis also scored 18 points and No. 1 overall pick John Wall had 17 points and 10 assists. But the Wizards were unable to overcome the sharp shooting of Dirk Nowitzi, who scored a game-high 24 points, and the interior presence of Tyson Chandler, who had 18 points and 18 rebounds, or the overall floor leadership of Kidd, who nearly had a triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds.

Andray Blatche had a rough game shooting from the field, but collected 13 rebounds. He also got to the foul line, where he got eight of his 16 points, but he got pounded in the process. After attempting one free throw, Blatche hunched over, holding his sore right shoulder for several seconds before attempting the next one.

"Just bothered me a little bit. Nothing to make an excuse for. I'm good," said Blatche, who shot just 4 of 17 from the floor. "Even though we lost, I don't feel bad about our effort. The effort was there. We put everything on the line and had a chance to win. I really feel [on Tuesday in New Orleans], if we come with the same attitude and effort, we'll come away with a win."

The Wizards (13-34) will conclude their four-game trip against the Hornets, but - with the exception of their loss in Memphis - they have been encouraged by their performance away from Verizon Center. They lost in double-overtime against Oklahoma City. And, after jumping out to a 12-point lead in the first half against Dallas, they trailed by just four points with less than three minutes remaining.

"We played hard," Coach Flip Saunders said. "Our guys fought through adversity. It's tough when you struggle and put yourself in position and you're looking to get a break and there were some obvious ones and you hope to get them. But we didn't get them. We've had some bad stretches on the road, but we haven't been a team that's quit on the road. If you look at us play, you wouldn't think we've lost 24 straight. We've just got to keep going."

Saunders picked up a technical foul after arguing that Nowitzki had a clear path to the basket because Mavericks reserve Ian Mahinmi had set an illegal screen. Nowitzki made the technical foul shot and converted the three-point play as the Mavericks came away with four points on the possession and led, 91-81.

Wall brought the Wizards within five shortly thereafter when he made a desperation three-pointer with the shot clock winding down. Wall celebrated by flashing three fingers up with his hands and he laughed at his good fortune.

"I think that's my best threes, late shot clock," joked Wall, who made a game-winning shot against Boston in similar fashion.

Yi Jianlian (14 points, 11 rebounds) sank two free throws to bring the Wizards within 95-91. Nowitzki responded with a pullup jumper, but the Wizards were unable to draw much closer as Young and Wall combined to miss three of four free throws. The Mavericks (32-15) put the game away when Kidd missed a three-pointer that bounded high over the backboard. Chandler recovered the ball and saved it to Jason Terry (14 points), who found Kidd for his three-pointer that gave Dallas a 100-92 lead.

"I thought it was out of bounds. They didn't make the call, but you still got to keep playing until you hear the whistle," Wall said. "I'm disappointed, I'm not going to lie. You think about it, every time you lose, you're right there. Out of the three road games we had, two of them we was able to win. You just got to move on."


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