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Mavericks' win helps Johnson set record

Jan 1, 2007 - 6:23 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- With Dirk Nowitzki sidelined, Josh Howard stepped up to help coach Avery Johnson make history.

Howard scored nine of his 28 points in less than six minutes to rally the Dallas Mavericks to their 10th consecutive win, an 89-85 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

The fourth-quarter comeback helped Avery become the fastest coach to win 100 games, surpassing the late Red Auerbach.

"The Nuggets had our backs to the wall but our guys played well," Johnson said. "Josh Howard had one of the best performances I've seen of him in a Maverick uniform. Not only the points and rebounds but the four charges he took."

Avery improved to 100-31 to break the record of Auerbach, who needed 135 games to reach the milestone with the Washington Capitols in 1948-1949.

With leading scorer Nowitzki out due to a sinus infection, Howard and Jason Terry helped the Mavericks erase a 76-69 deficit with 7 1/2 minutes to play.

"Tonight's game was probably one of our toughest of the year playing without Dirk," Terry said. "The Nuggets are revamped, they are much more re-energized team with A.I. (Iverson) out there running the helm. (Earl) Boykins is playing well, they still got guys hurt, coming back, but they are going to be tough. Down the stretch they are going to be a playoff team."

Howard and Terry scored 14 of Dallas' final 19 points as Denver dropped its second straight game and fell to 2-3 since the trade for Allen Iverson, who was immense with 28 points, eight assists and seven steals.

"It was tough. We had it, we just didn't finish it," Iverson said. "We didn't finish it out. We had all the opportunities in the world, we just didn't get it done. We had opportunities, guys had wide-open looks. We'll take those shots. I'll take them any day. Guys just got to knock them down.

"You can't make them all, but we didn't make them when we needed to make them."

While the Nuggets are undermanned with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith still serving suspensions, they did get one body back with the return of Marcus Camby, who had been sidelined since December 18 with a fractured right ring finger. He finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

"It felt good for the most part, I had the adrenaline going," Camby said. "Just have to do what I can out there with us being undermanned. Just trying to go out there and help our team out. I felt good. My hand still hurts every time I shot or touched the ball so I tried to suck it up and just try to give it all to help the team."

Terry finished with 21 points as the Mavericks overcome horrendous 5-for-26 shooting from 3-point range.

Boykins scored 20 points, including 16 in the first half, when he and Iverson combined to make 11-of-19 shots. But the Nuggets cooled off considerably in the second half, shooting 29 percent (12-of-41).

"The effort the last two games has been great, but ... Dallas is a very good defensive team," Denver coach George Karl said. "We got good shots a lot, but we didn't know where they were coming from and there was no confidence in them to make them."

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