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Mavericks start quickly and hold on for 97-84 win over Atlanta
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DALLAS -- Jason Terry and the Dallas Mavericks never changed their philosophy, even with their recent shooting woes.

"We know we're a good shooting team," Terry said. "Shooters keep shooting."

The Mavericks started fast Saturday by making their first five shots and got an inside boost from Erick Dampier to lead throughout a 97-84 victory that snapped Atlanta's longest winning streak in eight years.

Atlanta was trying to win six in a row for the first time since late in the 1998-99 season, the last time the Hawks made the playoffs and finished with a winning record. But they were already down 12-0 less than 21/2 minutes into the game.

"They hit us on the mouth from the start and we didn't do anything about it," Hawks guard Joe Johnson said.

"They established themselves defensively as well as offensively. On the defensive end, they beat us up," coach Mike Woodson said. "If we're going to be a playoff team, we have to play them the same way they played us."

Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points and Josh Howard and Devin Harris each had 19 for Dallas, which was coming off consecutive losses in which it combined to shoot less than 40 percent.

Dampier set the tone with a dunk on the opening possession. He finished with his first double-double of the season: 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting, all before halftime, and 10 rebounds.

"There's no secret that when Dampier scores inside, catches and finishes strong, he's a big force," Terry said. "Lots of times, we're busy shooting jump shots and not feeding him like we need to."

After Dampier's opening slam, Howard and Nowitzki added 3-pointers in that early spurt. And when Dallas had to hold off a late charge by Atlanta, Howard and Nowitzki kept it from getting too close.

Nowitzki ended a wild sequence in which both teams missed layups by making a baseline jumper to put the Mavs up 89-79 with 3:07 left. After an Atlanta miss, Howard had a breakaway layup, and though he missed the free throw after being fouled, Dallas maintained a double-figure lead the rest of the way.

The Hawks were within six with 4:53 left after Marvin Williams converted a three-point play and then got credited with a basket on a goaltending call against Dampier. Atlanta never got closer after that 12-1 run.

Williams led Atlanta with 18 points and Johnson scored 17. Al Horford had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"Our defense was really good early on," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "We got a little choppy and the game became interesting there. ... But overall, I liked the focus of our team today. That team reminded me of a team I coached here before."

Maybe the one that went to the NBA finals two seasons ago.

Or the squad that set a franchise record with 67 victories last season before being upset as the No. 1 seed in the first round of playoffs by Golden State, the Mavericks' next opponent at home Wednesday night.

Dallas made all five of its 3-pointers in the first quarter, and finished 7-of-13 after making only 13-of-46 (28 percent) the previous two games. While they didn't maintain their sharp shooting throughout, the Mavs were improved over the previous losses to Utah and Cleveland at 44 percent (32-of-73) overall.

Nowitzki scored eight straight points midway through the third quarter, ending that stretch with a nifty 8-foot fadeaway jumper he made despite getting fouled. That even prompted coach Johnson to get off the bench for a celebratory hand-slap before Nowitzki added the free throw to give Dallas its largest lead at 66-45.

Another acrobatic three-point play by Nowitzki midway through the first quarter, that one a turnaround jumper, pushed Dallas ahead 25-8.

"Games like this are big for us," Jerry Stackhouse said. "We came out with a focus that allowed us to win this game comfortably."

Notes: Atlanta has lost four straight games and nine of 10 in Dallas. The Hawks opened this season with a 101-94 win at home over the Mavericks. ... The noon game was part of an NBA-NHL doubleheader at the American Airlines Center. The Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues were to play at 8 p.m. ... The national anthem was a guitar solo performed by Nowitzki's brother-in-law.

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