for this game

Howard's last-second layup lifts Mavericks past Raptors

Jan 14, 2007 - 11:06 PM TORONTO (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks extended their winning streak over the Toronto Raptors, but it did not come easily.

Nowitzki scored 38 points and Josh Howard made the game-winning layup with one second remaining to lift the Mavericks to a 97-96 triumph over the Raptors.

It was the fourth straight victory and the 17th in 18 games for Dallas, which boasts an NBA-best 31-8 record. The Mavericks also swept their season series with the Raptors and won their seventh consecutive meeting with Toronto.

"Obviously you can't win every game in this league," Nowitzki said. "There will be some tough losses, but we're still a working project. We want to play our best basketball when we reach the playoffs, and we're working toward that."

"By no means do you overlook a team like Toronto," Dallas point guard Jason Terry added. "They're playing very well this year. I'm looking forward to seeing them in the playoffs."

Nowitzki was not much of a factor in Dallas' 117-98 win over Toronto on November 29, scoring just six points before leaving the contest in the first quarter with blurred vision.

But the German superstar was Dallas' driving force on Sunday, scoring 12 points in the Mavericks' fourth-quarter comeback while finishing with 11 rebounds and five assists.

Toronto owned a 96-95 lead with nine seconds remaining when Chris Bosh won a jump ball over Dallas' Greg Buckner near the the Mavericks' basket. But Nowitzki reached up and deflected the ball to Howard, who quickly called a timeout with six seconds left.

Inbounding the ball near halfcourt, Dallas put the ball in the hands of Terry, who clearly was looking to set up Nowitzki for a final shot along the right wing.

Expecting the ball to go to Nowitzki, Bosh left Howard wide open under the basket to help Morris Peterson defend the German 7-footer. Terry capitalized on the mistake, firing a quick pass to Howard, who barely got off the go-ahead layup with nine-tenths of a second left.

"We drew it up," Howard said. "(I) slip over, the two guys went for Dirk, and that's what happened - wide open at the basket."

"That was the right pass at the right time," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson added. "I'm glad it got through there, and I'm glad that Josh finished it."

Peterson, who switched off Howard to defend Nowitzki as the ball was inbounded, admitted he also made a mistake on the play.

"Our coach said he didn't want us to switch," Peterson said. "But I looked up and I see Dirk coming off a screen and nobody was behind him. So my initial reaction was not to let him get the ball. It was just a miscommunication."

Toronto had a chance to win the contest, but Anthony Parker's desperation 28-foot shot fell well short as the buzzer sounded.

Terry scored 17 points while Howard finished with 14 despite shooting just 5-of-17 from the floor. Devin Harris chipped in 10 points for Dallas, which rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit.

"Tonight was a gutsy performance especially by our team in the second half," Johnson said. "We were sleep-walking in the first half and Toronto, we had no answers for what they were doing."

Bosh scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the Raptors, who have not beaten the Mavericks since November 6, 2003.

"We would have loved to win this game, but there were points and times where we were kind of flat," Bosh said. "They started playing, and we knew it was going to come.

"That's what good teams do, they keep scrapping and fighting and they try to find a way to win."