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Howard, Nowitzki lead Mavericks past Hornets

Dec 17, 2006 - 6:53 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- It doesn't matter where the New Orleans Hornets play. They can't beat the Dallas Mavericks.

Returning to the Crescent City for the third time this season, the Hornets lost to the Mavericks for the 19th straight time, absorbing a 90-79 setback.

Josh Howard scored 23 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 20, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Mavericks, who last lost in the series on November 17, 1999, when the Hornets were in Charlotte.

"I'm just competing, playing hard," Howard said. "I was getting good shots and knew I could knock them down."

"Howard is maturing," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "Last season there were times when I had to scream my lungs out at him, and he'd say, 'Coach, that was on me.' But he's come a long way. He's quietly maturing right before our very eyes."

The Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002 and played the majority of their games last season and this season in Oklahoma City due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Regardless of the locale, they have been unable to solve the Mavericks. Dallas' dominance of the series is the longest active streak in the NBA.

Johnson expressed happiness in being able to play professional basketball back in the home of his youth.

"It meant a lot to me in several ways," Johnson said. "First I've got a really good relationship with Hornets coach Byron Scott. I supported this organization. ... I supported it during relocation. I had family here. My sister and my aunt sat right next to our bench tonight. That's the closest my aunt has been at one of our games."

Devin Harris scored 13 points and backcourt mate Jason Terry added 12, seven rebounds and six assists for Dallas.

Chris Paul had 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for the Hornets, who continue to play without injured starters David West and Peja Stojakovic as well as top reserve Bobby Jackson.

"I thought the effort was great," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I thought we played hard. We battled, but against a team like Dallas when you are shorthanded, you can't make mental mistakes we made in the first half and the second half."

"We did not lay down," Hornets center Tyson Chandler said. "We fought hard. We were scrappy. We were in it the entire game, but they just had more firepower than us and they executed in the fourth quarter."

Rasual Butler scored 19 points and Marc Jackson added 13 for the Hornets, who shot 41 percent (34-of-83) from the field and have lost nine of their last 11 games.

"The Hornets are a dangerous team to play," Mavericks guard Jerry Stackhouse said. "They're capable of making runs with any team in the NBA. Overall, our experience, skill and depth just wore them down. I think they'll be better after Christmas ... but for now they just have to weather the storm with so many pieces out."

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