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Nowitzki drops 44 on Nuggets to keep Mavs alive in Game 4

The Sports Network

5/12/2009 3:31:56 AM

Dallas, TX (Sports Network) - Dirk Nowitzki logged 19 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter, including two big free throws with 8.3 seconds left in regulation to keep the Mavericks alive with a 119-117 victory in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Nuggets.

Nowitzki's 14-of-25 effort from the floor and 13 rebounds coupled with Josh Howard's 21 points and 11 boards spoiled Denver's chance at its first seven-game series sweep in its postseason history.

The physical series now shifts to Denver for Game 5 on Wednesday, when Denver will have a chance to advance to the conference finals for the first time since the 1984-85 campaign.

"It was an unbelievable game out there tonight," Nowitzki said. "We were down the whole game, but were able to come back and win and we've been doing that all season long. It's been a tough up-and-down year for us, but we're not done yet. We played hard tonight and we've played for one more chance and we've got to go back to Denver and let it all hang out again."

The game featured seven technicals and two flagrant fouls, with Dallas going 36-of-43 from the foul line, and Denver making 32-of-44 at the stripe in the tightly-officiated contest.

Carmelo Anthony, who hit a controversial game-winner with a second remaining in Game 3, netted a playoff-high 41 points with 11 rebounds for Denver, which was outrebounded 50-34.

Chauncey Billups logged 24 points and seven assists in the loss.

The fourth quarter was a classic back-and-forth struggle. Denver led most of the way, but Dallas never withered, overcoming a pair of technicals to Brandon Bass and Antoine Wright midway through the frame.

J.R. Smith's jumper with just under six minutes to play pumped the Nuggets' lead to 105-100, but Nowitzki's jumper a little later tied the game, 110-110, with 2:44 remaining.

Nene's slam off a nice drive-and-dish from Billups gave Denver the lead again, but it was Denver's last field goal until the waning seconds.

Nowitzki's free throws followed by a step-back jumper with 1:05 left gave Dallas its first least since the opening quarter.

Billups turned the ball over the next time down, and Anthony was called for a loose ball foul going up for a defensive rebound.

Howard's subsequent freebies made it a four-point game, 116-112, with 31.4 seconds to play. Anthony drained two from the line shortly thereafter, but a touch-foul on Kenyon Martin resulted in Nowitzki calmly sinking two from the stripe with 8.3 seconds left to essentially seal the game.

"I'm not disappointed. I think Dallas is one of the top four teams in the Western Conference," Nuggets head coach George Karl said. "We're still a team in development, [and] a team in progress. And we will [learn] from this game and I think you'll see a very committed and angry team on Wednesday."

Dallas had its back against the wall, but it was Denver that came out with a purpose, hitting 5-of-6 from behind the arc in a dominating first quarter.

Smith and Linas Kleiza each drilled a trey around Anthony's fastbreak basket late in the stanza, which ended with the visitors up 34-23.

Anthony received a technical early in the second, swiping at Wright after a tussle under the basket. The event briefly sparked the Mavs, who chipped away at their deficit and were within 58-53 after a pair of Howard free throws with under a minute to play.

But Jason Terry's hard foul on Kleiza in the waning seconds resulted in a a flagrant type one foul and a technical. After the three free throws, Anthony's tip-in just before the halftime buzzer resulted in a 63-53 advantage.

The hosts came out of the locker room fired up, making six of their first eight shots while holding the Nuggets to 1-fo-7 shooting.

Howard's jumper pulled the Mavs within 68-67 four minutes in, and the teams traded respective runs, with Dallas answering eight straight Denver points with a 12-3 spurt.

J.J. Barea's layup tied the game, 85-85, but a pair of Smith free throws followed by Anthony's three-point play put Denver up 90-85 with 12 minutes left.

Game Notes:

Dallas has never been swept in a seven-game series...Chris Andersen, who has been Denver's spark off the bench this postseason, did not play due to a stomach virus...Howard played through two badly injured ankles...Denver had also won all four regular season games against Dallas...Jason Kidd finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Dallas, which got 12 points from Terry and 11 from Bass off the bench...Smith netted 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the Nuggets, who led by as many as 14 in the setback.