Dallas tops Wolves for 12th straight win
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Shawn Marion had a season-high 29 points and 14 rebounds and the Dallas Mavericks stretched the league's longest active winning streak to 12 straight games with a 125-112 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points and Caron Butler had 23 for Dallas, which has flourished since acquiring Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline.
The Mavericks (44-21) haven't lost since Feb. 16 at Oklahoma City and have climbed into second place in the Western Conference, not far behind the Los Angeles Lakers (46-18).
Al Jefferson had 36 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota in his return from a two-game suspension because of a DWI arrest.
Ryan Hollins added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Timberwolves, who committed 26 turnovers and lost their sixth straight and 12th in the last 13 games.
Things got testy in the fourth quarter when Hollins was ejected after hitting Nowitzki in the head with a forearm shot.
Nowitzki was not hurt on the play, but it was the second confrontation of the game for Hollins, who tangled with DeShawn Stevenson in the first quarter.
The Wolves trailed by eight with under five minutes to play in the fourth, but Sasha Pavlovic missed two free throws and Nowitzki hit four straight free throws after Hollins' ejection to put the game away.
Despite owning the Western Conference's worst record for most of the season, the Timberwolves have been surprisingly competitive against the powerful Mavericks this season. They won in Dallas on Feb. 5, then pushed the Mavs to the limit in a 112-109 loss at Dallas last week without Jefferson.
The Wolves' big man started strong in his first game back from the suspension, hitting his first five shots and scoring 11 points in the first six minutes of the game to help the Timberwolves take a 19-9 lead.
Nowitzki went to the bench with his second foul just over 90 seconds into the game, and the Wolves looked to be in good shape when Marion picked up his second foul later in the first quarter. But when Jefferson went to the bench for a breather, the Mavs ripped off a 15-0 run to take a 32-23 lead and were barely threatened the rest of the way.
With Nowitzki on the bench, veteran Eduardo Najera filled in admirably, hitting a couple of jumpers and flustering youngster Kevin Love with the trademark toughness and grit that has kept him in the league for a decade.
It's been that way for the Mavericks throughout this superb surge, with several role players coming up big in key situations. When shooting guard Jason Terry went out with surgery to repair facial injuries suffered in a collision with Timberwolves guard Corey Brewer last week, rookie Rodrigue Beaubois responded by averaging 21.0 points in the next three games to keep the team rolling.
Haywood did not play for the second straight game because of a tight lower back and Erick Dampier has been out 12 games with a finger injury, so the Mavericks have played more zone defense to make up for the lack of a big man in the middle.
NOTES: Mavs PG J.J. Barea left late in the game with a left ankle injury. ... Wolves SG Corey Brewer extended his team record with a 3-pointer in his 28th straight game. ... Jefferson on the "Hurt Locker" bringing home six Oscars on Sunday night: "I'm not hating on that movie, but it was just a long, boring movie."