DALLAS - Tim Thomas took Dirk Nowitzki's spot in the starting lineup and did a nice impression with 22 points, helping the Dallas Mavericks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-95 Sunday night to spoil LeBron James' 500th career game.
The Cavs had won five straight and their previous four against the Mavericks, but they trailed the entire second half. They pulled to 84-83 midway through the fourth quarter, but Dallas answered with a 12-4 spurt capped by three-pointers from Jason Kidd and Jason Terry.
Nowitzki was recovering from a gruesome collision with Houston's Carl Landry on Friday night in which Landry lost five teeth, two of them becoming embedded in Nowitzki's right elbow. He needed several stitches to close the wound and was still too sore Sunday. He's hoping this will be the only game he has to miss.
While Thomas made up for most of his 26.1 points, the main reason Dallas won for the sixth time in seven games was getting solid contributions from a lot of players.
Terry scored 19 points, Kidd had 10 points and 11 assists, and both Drew Gooden and Shawn Marion had 12 points and eight rebounds. Josh Howard added 14 points and Erick Dampier had eight points and 10 rebounds, plus the satisfaction of both beating O'Neal and holding him in check; Shaq missed his first six shots.
James had 25 points, six assists and three rebounds, but didn't get enough help. Mo Williams scored only eight points (an 89-per cent foul shooter, he missed a pair on one trip to the line) and Shaquille O'Neal was just 1-of-7 for five points.
Delonte West scored 18 points, Anderson Varejao had 13 points and eight rebounds and Anthony Parker added 12 points for Cleveland.
Thomas started for the first time since joining Dallas, and was playing only his 12th game because of injuries. He was 7 of 14 with seven rebounds and two assists. He played a lot like Nowitzki, too, mixing a pair of three-pointers with some inside baskets and six free throws.
After a tight first half, Dallas went on an 11-1 run at the start of the second half to go ahead by 12. Cleveland answered with a 12-2 run that included O'Neal's first basket, and it was back to a two-point game.
The Mavericks were up by seven after three quarters and were bracing for another push from the Cavaliers. It came, but Dallas managed to hang on - avoiding another tumultuous finish like the Houston game. The Mavs lost that one in overtime, then on Sunday filed a protest. The league must rule within five days.
NOTES: James ended a streak of 11 straight games with at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. ... James also fell two rebounds shy of joining Oscar Robertson as the only players with 13,750 points, 3,500 rebounds and 3,250 assists through their first 500 games. ... Nowitzki said if this had been a playoff game, he would've had a cortisone shot and tried to play. He added that doctors are mostly worried about infection. ... Cavs G Daniel Gibson came home to Texas with a Longhorns logo shaved into his head.