Anyone who doubts whether the Dallas Mavericks are the NBA's best team might think differently after seeing how they won their 13th straight.
Trailing by 16 late in the third quarter, their zone defense failing and their offensive touch missing, the Mavericks put everything together in a thrilling fourth quarter to pull out a 115-105 victory over the visiting Seattle SuperSonics last night.
Led by their usual starring trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash, Dallas used an 18-1 run to catapult into the lead. Seattle went back ahead once, but the Mavericks answered on their next possession to continue the best roll in franchise history.
"To find a way to win games like this is a sign of a champion," said Finley, who had 29 points and 11 rebounds. "We found a way."
Dallas's hot streak is the fourth-best in league history. The only three teams that have done better all made it to the NBA Finals.
The Mavericks will try matching the 14-0 start by Boston in 1957-58 when it plays at Detroit on Wednesday. They could be going for the record of 15-0 -- which was set by Washington in 1948-49 and tied by Houston in 1993-94 -- on Thursday at Indiana.
The Mavericks played poorly at the start, and the Sonics took advantage. They led by 16 in the first quarter, and were still up that many late in the third, silencing a crowd of 20,011 that had been so raucous earlier in the week for games against the Lakers and Houston.
Then came the turnaround.
Dallas went from trailing 81-65 with 2:43 left in the third to leading 89-86 with 8:10 to go. Seattle's only point in that stretch came on a technical foul free throw following the ejection of Mavericks Coach Don Nelson for arguing a foul call.
* PISTONS 106, PACERS 91: Richard Hamilton had 22 points and five teammates scored in double figures as visiting Detroit pulled away in the second half and snapped Indiana's winning streak at nine games.
It was only the second time this season that the Pistons, who lead the league in scoring defense at 79.6 points a game, topped 100 points. They did it with a scoring flurry that erased a 10-point Indiana lead in the first half, then added another burst in the closing minutes after the Pacers threatened a big comeback of their own.
* NUGGETS 80, SUNS 79: Ryan Bowen's layup just before the final buzzer gave visiting Denver its second last-second win in two nights.
Bowen's basket came after the Suns appeared to have won the game on Shawn Marion's slam with six-tenths of a second remaining. Donnell Harvey took the ball out of bounds and fired it downcourt to Bowen under the basket. It was uncertain whether Bowen had gotten off the shot in time, but the officials used instant replay to confirm it was good.
On Friday, the Nuggets defeated the Clippers on James Posey's buzzer-beater.
* CELTICS 109, HAWKS 99: In Atlanta, Shammond Williams stepped into the starting lineup and had 19 points and six of Boston's 17 steals as the Celtics won their third straight.
Paul Pierce scored 31 points and Antoine Walker added 22 for Boston, which never trailed and scored 24 points off 25 turnovers. Williams started in place of Tony Delk, who left the team to be with his ill daughter.
* NETS 96, TIMBERWOLVES 82: In Minneapolis, Kerry Kittles scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half. Jason Kidd had 18 points and 12 assists and Richard Jefferson had 14 points and seven rebounds for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who won their second game in as many nights.
* KINGS 95, TRAIL BLAZERS 94: Hedo Turkoglu made a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining to lift visiting Sacramento.
Turkoglu, who scored 15 points, was fouled by Rasheed Wallace on a loose ball situation after Arvydas Sabonis tried to save an offensive rebound near the Kings bench.
* HORNETS 97, CAVALIERS 84: Baron Davis scored 13 of his 17 points after sitting out the third period with back spasms, and visiting New Orleans handed Cleveland its 10th loss in a row.
* JAZZ 110, BULLS 90: Matt Harpring and Karl Malone each had 20 points as host Utah extended its winning streak to four games.