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NBA ROUNDUP

Cavaliers slip a bit farther back

They're 2 behind for playoff berth

Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash did their best to upstage LeBron James, leading the Mavericks to a 126-109 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night in Dallas, clinching a playoff berth.

Nowitzki had 35 points, a season-high 18 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Nash added a season-high 31 points and 10 assists.

Cleveland lost its second straight and sixth in seven games. The Cavaliers fell two games behind the Celtics and 2 1/2 behind the Knicks in the race for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Dallas is two games behind Memphis for the fifth seed in the West.

James had 28 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds, with many breathtaking plays. He opened with a thunderous dunk over Michael Finley and later had highlight reel moves for baskets against Nowitzki and Nash.

With Carlos Boozer posting 23 points and 20 rebounds, Zydrunas Ilgauskas scoring 26, and Lee Nailon adding 23, Cleveland was able to hang with Dallas for most of the first three quarters.

Yet the Cavaliers got little from anyone else. The fifth starter, Kevin Ollie, had just one basket, and the reserves scored only 7 points, most in garbage time.

Nuggets 124, SuperSonics 119 -- Carmelo Anthony had a career-high 41 points and Andre Miller added 14 points and 16 assists, helping host Denver hold off Seattle to move into a tie for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Anthony was 19 for 29 as Denver shot 50 percent to tie idle Utah for eighth place in the West.

Nene added 19 points and Marcus Camby had 15 for the Nuggets.

Rashard Lewis had 26 points and Ray Allen 24 for Seattle, which dropped four games behind Utah and Denver despite shooting 50 percent.

Two Rodney White free throws put Denver up, 121-117, with 21 seconds left, and Ronald Murray hit two more free throws two seconds later.

Earl Boykins made two free throws with 15 seconds left, and Allen and Brent Barry missed 3-pointers on Seattle's final legitimate chance.

Lakers 107, Hornets 88 -- Kobe Bryant scored 23 points and Gary Payton added 20 as host Los Angeles routed shorthanded New Orleans despite falling behind by 12 points in the first four minutes. The win was the ninth straight for the Lakers, who moved within 1 1/2 games of the Western Conference-leading Sacramento Kings. Los Angeles has an NBA-best 20-4 record since the All-Star break.

New Orleans lost for the fifth time in six games, dropping to .500 for the first time this season and into a tie with Milwaukee for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Hornets played without injured stars Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn.

One game after having a season-low 12 assists, the Lakers had 21 in the first half and 30 overall -- six each by Bryant and Payton.

The Lakers put the game away by outscoring the Hornets, 13-3, to finish the third quarter and at the start the final period for an 89-67 lead.

Bucks 95, Pacers 86 -- Joe Smith matched his season high with 25 points and added 14 rebounds, and Milwaukee defeated visiting Indiana for the third time this season. The victory snapped a four-game home losing streak for the Bucks.

Jermaine O'Neal led the Pacers with 20 points as Indiana had its four-game winning streak snapped.

Bucks leading scorer Michael Redd had just 12 points and played only eight minutes in the second half after sustaining a cut near his right eye early in the third quarter.

Indiana did not lead after the Bucks used a 22-8 run late in the second quarter to take a 54-46 halftime lead. The Pacers, who shot 42.5 percent, got no closer than 2 the rest of the way and no closer than 4 in the fourth quarter.

76ers, 95, Warriors 71 -- Samuel Dalembert had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Kenny Thomas had 13 points and 14 rebounds to lead host Philadelphia over Golden State, snapping the Warriors' seven-game winning streak. Dalembert and Aaron McKie led the way during a decisive 30-6 run in the third quarter. The Sixers shot 54 percent in the period and held the Warriors to only two field goals -- one on a goaltending call.

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