Mavericks take 2 game lead over Grizzlies

DALLAS (AP) - This time, the Dallas Mavericks are taking advantage of the home court at the start of the playoffs.

Instead of having to play catch-up on the road again as they did last year, the Mavericks head to Memphis with a 2-0 series lead in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs after beating the Grizzlies 94-79 on Wednesday night.

"Last year, we had a letdown," Dallas forward Jerry Stackhouse said. "We didn't want to work as hard as we did this season, then give it away. Now hopefully we can do what we did on the road last year."

After losing the first two games at home in the first round of the 2005 playoffs, the Mavericks went to Houston and won twice. The home team then won the rest of the games in the series, Dallas clinching it with a 40-point victory over the Rockets in Game 7.

"It's obviously a lot better than being down 0-2 like last year," said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 31 points. "But we came back from 0-2 last year. Really, anything's possible. We expect them to come out swinging on Saturday, especially at home.

The Grizzlies better do something, or they may get swept out of the playoffs again. Memphis is 0-10 in its playoff history, four more losses than any NBA team before its first postseason victory.

Memphis led by four early in the second quarter, then went 16 straight possessions without a point and 10:47 between baskets. It was run of missed shots and turnovers that spilled into the third quarter. There were several offensive fouls, and even a lane violation that cost a point.

"Things started to fall apart at the seam. It happened at both ends," coach Mike Fratello said. "It was mostly self-inflicted. The more possessions you give them, the more they are going to score."*

And the Mavericks took full advantage, extending their lead from three to 19 points.*

After Chucky Atkins made a layup with 7:07 left in the second quarter, the Grizzlies didn't get another field goal until a dunk by Eddie Jones with 8:20 left in the third. Their only points in between were four free throws.*

"It was frustrating. We were turning the ball over without making them work for it," All-Star forward Pau Gasol said. "It was really an intense game for a while, and we had a very good chance to be right there. We lost it for a few minutes, and we paid for it."

The Grizzlies missed only eight shots during their drought. They hurt themselves more by committing nine turnovers. They finished with 20.

Gasol had 16 points and Bobby Jackson scored 12. Jones, who organized a players-only dinner Monday night, finished with 11 points.

Dallas' Josh Howard scored 17 points and Jason Terry had 16 and nine assists.

Nowitzki scored 21 in the first half, helping Dallas take a 13-point lead into the break. When Memphis' woes continued in the second half, the Mavericks seemed to go through the motions the rest of the game.

It hardly mattered, either. When the Mavs had six straight misses and three turnovers, the Grizzlies could only turn it into four points.

"We'll just take this victory any way we can get it," said Avery Johnson, who received the NBA coach of the year trophy before the game. "There's still another level for the Mavericks to go to. We're just not there yet."

With a likely second-round matchup looming against No. 1 seed San Antonio, if they win this series, the Mavericks would like to keep pace with the Spurs. San Antonio has won its first two games against Sacramento.

Held without a field goal in the first half of Game 1, Gasol scored in the first minute Wednesday and had 10 points at the end of the first quarter. The Grizzlies also didn't have a turnover yet, and still trailed 32-31 because Dallas made 11 of its first 14 shots.

The Grizzlies pushed ahead with five quick points while Nowitzki was on the bench to start the second. But the five-time All-Star then scored every point in a 9-0 run. That put the Mavericks ahead to stay, and things really started falling apart for Memphis a few minutes later.

"We turned the ball over too much and after that, we had our heads down," Shane Battier said. "We just didn't have it." Notes: Nowitzki has at least 30 points in both games this series. He had only one 30-point game last postseason. ... In a whistle-filled second quarter, Fratello and Stackhouse both got technicals for complaining. There were 16 offensive fouls called in the game. ... There were 63 combined fouls, 19 below the NBA playoff record for a regulation game.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)