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Heat melt under pressure

O'Neal slowed by Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki and Jerry Stackhouse got rolling in the final five minutes, just about the time the Dallas defense found a way to throttle Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat, leading the Mavericks to a 109-104 victory last night at Dallas.

The Heat, who had won three straight, led, 97-91, and had held the Mavericks to one field goal the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter.

Two straight baskets by Stackhouse and a jumper by Nowitzki got Dallas within 1 and revved up the large, vocal crowd drawn by O'Neal (25 points, 13 rebounds). Another jumper by Stackhouse put the Mavericks ahead, 99-98, and they never gave up the lead.

Miami missed eight straight shots down the stretch, going from 4:34 until 11.6 seconds left between baskets.

Magic 105, Cavaliers 102 -- Steve Francis had 30 points and tied a season high with 13 assists as host Orlando spoiled LeBron James's return. Grant Hill scored 21 for the Magic, who have won seven of their last eight home games.

James finished with 28 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds in his first game since rolling his left ankle last Wednesday in a win over Memphis.

Grizzlies 108, Suns 97 -- Jason Williams scored 19 points and had eight assists to lift Memphis.

The host Grizzlies had seven players score in double figures and shot 12 of 23 from 3-point range in ending the Suns' five-game winning streak. Memphis has won three straight.

Suns guard Steve Nash was ejected for arguing with 3:05 left and the Grizzlies leading, 100-92.

After Nash's ejection, Memphis built the lead to double digits, and Phoenix got no closer than 7.

Lakers 92, Trail Blazers 79 -- Hours after learning that coach Rudy Tomjanovich was thinking about resigning, the Lakers won behind Caron Butler's 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Chucky Atkins added 19 points and eight assists, and Lamar Odom scored 18 points for the Lakers, who won their second straight after a season-high three-game losing streak.

The Blazers lost for the 14th time in 18 games.

Pistons 105, Wizards 96 -- Chauncey Billups scored 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and visiting Detroit closed with a 20-11 run to win its fourth straight.

Billups helped break open a close game with a pair of 3-point efforts: He converted a steal and layup into a 3-point play with 5:10 to go, then hit a double-clutch 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer with 4:29 left to put the Pistons ahead, 92-85.

Nets 107, Bulls 97 -- Jacque Vaughn moved into the starting lineup and tied his career high with 23 points, and Jason Kidd narrowly missed the 62d triple double of his career in host New Jersey's victory.

Kidd had 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists, and Vince Carter had 31 points for the Nets, who won their season-high fourth in a row.

Nuggets 96, Knicks 76 -- Kenyon Martin scored a season-high 27 points, Carmelo Anthony added 19 and host Denver beat free-falling New York for its third consecutive victory under new coach George Karl.

Karl improved to 3-0 since taking over for interim coach Michael Cooper. Jamal Crawford scored 20 points to lead the Knicks, who have lost 14 of 16.

SuperSonics 106, Kings 101 -- Ronald Murray scored a season-high 23 points as Seattle ended a four-game losing streak at Arco Arena.

Leading scorer Ray Allen missed his second straight game with the flu, but Murray played much bigger than his 4.6 points-per-game average. The Northwest Division-leading Sonics had lost four of seven.

Bobcats 109, Jazz 105 -- Gerald Wallace scored 28 points and helped rally Charlotte from an 11-point deficit to just its second road win in team history. Brevin Knight added 21 points and eight assists for the Bobcats, who improved to 2-19 on the road.

Bucks 91, Timberwolves 86 -- Michael Redd scored 19 points and Joe Smith added 17 for host Milwaukee.

Toni Kukoc provided a huge lift with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals in his first start in almost three seasons for the Bucks, who had lost 10 straight to the Timberwolves.

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