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Denver down Mavericks to win playoff second round opener
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The Denver Nuggets clinched the second round opener in the NBA playoffs on Sunday with an emphatic 109-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Denver's Brazilian forward Nene scored 18 of his career playoff-high 24 points in the first half as Denver took a 51-47 halftime lead.

Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points as the Nuggets took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final series.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Josh Howard, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry scored 15 points apiece.

The Nuggets host game two on Tuesday, hoping to extend their home winning streak to 14 games, including four in the post-season.

Denver appeared poised to run away with it in the third period, as their defense manufactured several fast break baskets.

That defense contributed to 20 Dallas turnovers, including eight by Jason Kidd - who had just three in the first round.

The Nuggets outscored the Mavericks 29-4 on fast breaks, but Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was particularly annoyed by Denver's 36-13 advantage from the free throw line.

The Mavericks were energized by Antoine Wright's three-pointer and pulled within 82-80 early in the fourth quarter after Terry made a three-pointer and Nowitzki nailed a jump shot.

Denver responded with a 15-4 scoring run that put the Mavericks away.

The first half was marked by aggressive play, with Denver's Kenyon Martin throwing Nowitzki to the floor.

Howard, who spent significant time on the sidelines during the regular season because of a left ankle injury, twisted his right ankle in the first half when he got entangled with Billups. He went to the locker room, but was back before halftime.

(Xinhua News Agency May 4, 2009)

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