Instead of making a serious run at acquiring Shaquille O'Neal over the summer, the Dallas Mavericks decided to build their team around Dirk Nowitzki.
The logic couldn't be faulted yesterday. Nowitzki had 41 points, two off his career high, and Marquis Daniels added 22 to help Dallas beat Miami, 113-93, ending the Heat's unbeaten start and its franchise-record 14-game home win streak.
Nowitzki made 12 of 24 shots from the field, shot 4 for 7 from three-point range, made all 13 of his free throw tries and added 10 rebounds for Dallas (5-1).
O'Neal had 22 points -- making him the 20th player to reach 22,000 for his career -- and 10 rebounds for the Heat, which lost for the first time in five games this season. Dwyane Wade added 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists before spraining his left ankle with 7 minutes 7 seconds remaining. He did not return.
Dallas built a 14-point halftime lead and opened the third quarter with an 18-4 burst that pushed its lead to 89-63 against a Heat team that trailed by a total of 4 minutes 44 seconds in its first four games combined. Miami got back within 95-82 by the end of the third quarter, but never seriously challenged the Mavericks.
Dallas shot only 29 percent two nights earlier in Orlando, but the Mavericks came out firing against Miami -- which held its first four opponents to 41 percent shooting.
Dallas made 11 of its first 15 shots, while Miami missed 10 of its first 13. For the game, the Mavericks shot 53 percent; Miami managed to connect on 37 percent of its shots.
A 13-0 Mavericks' run -- highlighted by a 28-foot, shot-clock-beating three-pointer by Nowitzki -- gave Dallas a 25-8 lead with 4:18 left in the opening quarter.
Miami chipped away, and drew within 50-42 after Wade made a steal, pushed the ball upcourt and found Damon Jones for a wide-open three-pointer with 5:52 left in the half. But Dallas answered with scores on three straight possessions, and never let the Heat get within 10 points again.
Mavericks Coach Don Nelson -- the inventor of the "hack-a-Shaq" scheme -- ordered it used on three trips in the second quarter, hoping it would disrupt Miami's offense enough to keep the Heat from making a late run.
It worked. O'Neal, a challenged foul shooter, made three of the six free throws earned by being fouled near midcourt by Alan Henderson and Calvin Booth, Miami's momentum slowed down the stretch and the Heat trailed, 71-57, at halftime.
Keyon Dooling had 14 points and Rasual Butler 11 for Miami, which is at San Antonio tonight -- and has won there only once in 17 tries.
* TIMBERWOLVES 96, ROCKETS 91: Kevin Garnett had 20 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists to more than offset Yao Ming's 25 points for host Houston, which was playing without guard Tracy McGrady, sidelined by a hip strain.