Dirk Nowitzki claimed it was just another regular-season game. His playoff-like intensity against the Golden State Warriors told a different story.
Nowitzki had 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks to lead the Dallas Mavericks, who were bounced out of the first round of the NBA playoffs last season by the upstart Warriors, to a 121-99 victory Wednesday night.
``He exorcised some of his demons,'' Jerry Stackhouse said. ``It's something that needed to be done.''
``He just refused to allow them to double-team him,'' Jason Terry said. ``This was definitely his best game of the year. I liked everything he did.''
In other NBA games Wednesday, it was: Detroit 106, Washington 93; New Jersey 96, Orlando 95; Memphis 90, Indiana 72; Cleveland 98, Atlanta 94; Chicago 109, Charlotte 97; Milwaukee 103, Miami 98; Boston 97, Houston 93; Sacramento 107, New York 97; Portland 90, Minnesota 79; Utah 110, Philadelphia 107; and New Orleans 95, the Los Angeles Clippers 81.
Other teams have cribbed Golden State's strategy to try neutralizing Nowitzki this season. While some teams have made it work, Nowitzki wasn't about to let the Warriors pull it off again.
Nowitzki settled in closer to the basket than usual, then took open jumpers or charged the rim whenever he sensed single coverage and passing whenever a second defender came at him. He also decided what he wanted to do much quicker than usual. On defense, Nowitzki was so active that he had two blocks on one possession.
The Mavericks grabbed control early and never let up, especially not when Golden State finished the third quarter trailing by only four.
Dallas scored the first 11 points of the final period and broke things open with a 19-4 run. The emotion on Nowitzki's face throughout that surge showed how much this game meant to him, even if he denied afterward that he was trying to bury the memories of last spring.
``I don't believe in all that stuff,'' he said. ``I had a bad series, I didn't shoot well, so to me that's behind me. I don't really think about that much any more.''
Pistons 106, Wizards 93
Richard Hamilton had 20 points to become the 10th-leading scorer in Pistons history, and he added nine assists and seven rebounds to help visiting Detroit earn its 10th consecutive victory.
Celtics 97, Rockets 93
Kevin Garnett scored 11 of his 26 points in the last 7 minutes, adding nine rebounds to help host Boston beat Houston for its seventh consecutive victory. Paul Pierce scored 19 points and assisted on four key baskets down the stretch as the Celtics improved to 27-3 to match the best 30-game start in the shot-clock era.
Cavaliers 98, Hawks 94
LeBron James scored 32 of his 36 points in the second half and Larry Hughes made a crucial jumper down the stretch to lead the Cavaliers past visiting Atlanta.
Trail Blazers 90, Timberwolves 79
Brandon Roy scored 24 points and visiting Portland beat woeful Minnesota for its 14th victory in 15 games.
Al Jefferson had 29 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who are a league-worst 4-27 and off to the poorest start in franchise history.
Nets 96, Magic 95
Jason Kidd made a key defensive stop and nearly had a triple-double, helping New Jersey overcome a 15-point deficit at Orlando.
Vince Carter had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Kidd had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Kidd also set two career milestones after entering the game one assist shy of 9,000 and three rebounds short of Magic Johnson for fourth place on the career list for guards.
Bulls 109, Bobcats 97
Ben Gordon scored 22 points, Luol Deng added 21 points and 13 rebounds and Chicago continued its strong play under interim coach Jim Boylan with a win at Charlotte.
The Bulls improved to 3-1 under Boylan, who replaced the fired Scott Skiles. Rookie forward Joakim Noah had a career-high 17 points and six rebounds. Joe Smith scored 16 points and keyed the Bulls' third-quarter comeback as Chicago scored 48 points in the paint.
Grizzlies 90, Pacers 72
Pau Gasol scored 30 points and visiting Memphis beat Indiana to snap a five-game losing streak. Gasol also had 12 rebounds and shot 11-for-19 from the field. Rudy Gay scored 24 points and Mike Miller had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, extending Indiana's losing streak to five.
Bucks 103, Heat 98
Mo Williams reminded host Miami why its wanted him during the offseason, scoring 25 points with nine assists for Milwaukee. Charlie Villanueva scored 15 points, Andrew Bogut finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds and Charlie Bell scored 12 for the Bucks, who snapped a four-game skid and improved to 3-15 on the road.
Dwyane Wade led Miami with 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting, plus eight assists.
Kings 107, Knicks 97
John Salmons scored a career-high 32 points and Sacramento shook off more bad injury news to snap a four-game losing streak.
Ron Artest had elbow surgery earlier in the day, leaving the Kings without perhaps their three best players. Brad Miller had 26 points and 16 rebounds while Francisco Garcia added 22 points for the Kings.
Eddy Curry scored 24 points for the Knicks, who lost by double digits for an NBA-high 15th time. Stephon Marbury added 16 points in his first game since Dec. 17.
Jazz 110, 76ers 107
Carlos Boozer scored 22 points, Deron Williams had a season-high 20 assists and newly acquired Kyle Korver made five free throws in the final 27 seconds against his former team to help host Utah hold off Philadelphia.
Hornets 95, Clippers 81
David West had 29 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Paul added 16 points and 13 assists, and visiting New Orleans broke open a tight game in the third quarter.
Peja Stojakovic scored 16 points and Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the surging Hornets.

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