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DALLAS Nowitzki return to greatness is clearly going to be a rigorous climb as the Dallas Mavericks find themselves between rock and a very hard place.

Dirk came off the bench for the third game in a row Friday night against the Nuggets and although he took 10 shots, making just two for five points, it was almost as if he wasn there.

going to work myself into better shape obviously and can help a little more, but right now I not helping that much, Nowitzki said. just a step slow, that was obvious, had really no lift on the jumper so everything was kind of in and out. Mavs dropped to 0 3 with the franchise leading scorer back from October arthroscopic right knee surgery. They were blasted by San Antonio, beaten in OT at OKC on Thursday and then rocked at home by the Nuggets 106 85.

They lost five in a row and eight of nine, slumping at 12 18, with the Spurs coming to town on Sunday. A week ago at San Antonio, the Spurs dropped a franchise record 20 3 pointers on Dallas and led by 46 points late in the game.

Dirk played just 18 minutes against the Nuggets and not a second in the fourth quarter, even in the first half of the period when the game was still somewhat within striking distance.

But with the Mavs struggling every which way with Denver, coach Rick Carlisle said he decided enough was enough.

was too much tonight. That was my decision, Carlisle said. was back to back games and he isn limping or anything, but he just can give us what everyone expects him to give. We had to get a different guy in there and this process is going to be ongoing.

is tough, but we have to hang in there and in the big picture we have to keep working towards his total health and sometimes that means pulling the plug. this three games back, Dirk is averaging 7.3 points and he is 8 for 25 (32.0 percent) from the floor and 3 for 8 from 3 point range. He has 13 total rebounds and two assists while averaging 21.7 minutes.

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DALLAS They kept giving, so Danilo Gallinari kept taking.

The Denver Nuggets forward scored a career high 39 points and tied a career high with seven 3 pointers, a feat he accomplished just once before on Oct. 28, 2009, with the New York Knicks. Gallinari put up 11 high arching bombs from beyond the arc in Friday 106 85 rout of the reeling Dallas Mavericks simply because, well, no one really stepped out to guard him.

Afterward, Gallinari acknowledged as much, and as any proper house guest should, he politely thanked the Mavs for their hospitality.

was open and I shoot it, the Italian born Gallinari said. I got to thank the defense they prepared on me for leaving me open for the 3. Nuggets led by as many as 15 in the first half, but with the Mavs coming on and down only 50 47, Gallinari went to work in the final 5.6 seconds. He buried a 3 and then, after Andre Miller picked off a pass,Gallinari left the Mavs flat footed at the rim. He threw down Ty Lawson missed 3 at the buzzer for a momentum changing 5 point swing to give him 15 points and the Nuggets a 55 47 halftime lead.

Then, he opened the third quarter with his fourth 3 pointer and the demolition was on. He and Andre Iguodala went a combined 11 for 17 from beyond the arc while slumping Dallas, losers of five in a row and eight of nine, was just 5 for 25.

not pretty right now, said Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had rough night, going 2 for 10 from the floor for five points in his third game back from October knee surgery. the defensive end, our coverages get blown left and right and the other team makes us pay. was 14 for 23 overall and also had eight rebounds, three assists and just one turnover in 34 minutes.

should [have] got 40 [points], said Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, who contributed a massive effort with 11 points and 19 rebounds. was a phenomenal performance. 24, blew away his season high of 28 a little more than a week ago in a win over the Spurs. He came into Friday game not having made more than four 3s in a game this season, and he was shooting the 3 ball at just a 31.7 percent clip. He had made nine 3s in his last five games.

teammates were really finding me tonight and I glad I was making my shots, Gallinari said. was one of those games where after you release the ball you think that it going in. they pretty much did.

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HANGTIME SOUTHWEST Avery Johnson keeps striking out with point guards, the position he loved to play and eventually thrived as a hard nosed underdog.

The scorecard lists three point guards now that haven seen eye to eye with the Little General. One got traded away and the next two have played roles in him twice being fired.

On Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets did the deed, just 28 games into Johnson third season and little more than a week since strugglingDeron Williamsopenly complained that Johnson system wasn doing him any favors. Williams pined for the old days in Utah withJerry Sloan, the same coach with whom he became combative and drove into mid season retirement two years ago.

Johnson trying times with point guards goes back to 2007. In July, three months after Johnson 67 win Dallas Mavericks were humiliated in the first round by the Golden State Warriors, Johnson elevatedDevin Harris, the fifth overall pick in 2004,to starting point guard and shiftedJason Terryto shooting guard.

Johnson and Harris met up in Las Vegas, where the Mavs summer league team was playing, for an intensive few days on the court, one on one. The two had already developed an interesting relationship, sort of like the demanding father and the son who can please him no matter what, or the hard nosed college coach determined to ride his prized pupil until he emotionally cracks.

he does push me. Yes, I don think that ever going to change. Yes, I probably get yelled at the most, Harris said during a late night interview back then in Vegas. I learned to deal with it. I learned to cope with it, and it good. how Johnson viewed their dynamic.

problem with him is he was born a point guard and he has a former point guard [as his coach] who has played at all levels and has won at all levels, Johnson said. a big problem for him because I see plays before they happen. I see things develop and that a big problem for him, me being his coach and having played the position. then explained his shifting strategy with Harris. It not without irony.

Five games in and the Johnson Kidd relationship went south. Down two points with 34 seconds left in San Antonio, Johnson called timeout and sat Kidd. A frenzied possession ensued and Dallas lost. Johnson said he leaned on players familiar with his system. Kidd would call getting yanked in the clutch first and the biggest thing that stands out during his short time with Johnson.

Less than three months later, Mavs owner Mark Cuban fired Johnson before the team plane had made it back from New Orleans where Dallas bowed out of the first round in five games. One reason for change was to bring in a coach and offense better suited for Kidd to orchestrate.

So Williams makes three. He complained of Johnson iso heavy system and pined for Sloan pick and rolls and the kind of movement in the half court Williams said he grew up playing in high school and then at Illinois.
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