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Nowitzki keeps Dallas in playoffs

DALLAS, May 12 – German star Dirk Nowitzki scored 44 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to give Dallas a 119-117 victory Monday over Denver to stay alive in the National Basketball Association playoffs.DIRK_NOWITZKIThe victory by the Mavericks denied Denver a sweep of the second round best-of-seven Western Conference series, although the Nuggets could still advance by capturing game five at home on Wednesday.

Josh Howard added 21 points and 11 rebounds while Jason Kidd contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas.

Carmelo Anthony scored 41 points to pace the Nuggets while Chauncey Billups had 24 points and J.R. Smith added 19 as the Nuggets were foiled in a first try at advancing to their first Western Conference finals since 1985.

Either the Mavericks or Nuggets will play for a berth in next month’s NBA Finals against the winner between Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers. That series is deadlocked 2-2 with game five Tuesday at Los Angeles.

Anthony scored 18 points in the first half, when the Nuggets seized a 61-53 lead.

Nowitzki pulled the Mavericks level at 110-100 on a jumper with 2:44 remaining. Brazil’s Nene put the Nuggets back on top with a slam dunk but Nowitzki pulled Dallas even again on two free throws with 1:48 to play.

Anthony missed a layup and Nowitzki answered with a jumper with 1:05 remaining, then Jason Kidd stole the ball from Anthony to set up a rebound foul by Anthony on Josh Howard, who sank two free throws with 31.4 seconds to play to give Dallas a 116-112 lead.

Denver repsonded with two Anthony free throws with 30.6 seconds remaining to pull the Nuggets within 116-114 but Nowitzki added two free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining after being fouled by Denver’s Kenyon Martin.

Anthony added a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds remaining to lift the Nuggets within 118-117 but Jason Terry sank a free throw for Dallas with 1.1 seconds to play to create the final margin.

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