for this game

Howard, Mavericks use huge first half to cruise past Spurs

Nov 16, 2007 - 6:55 PM DALLAS (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks fired the first salvo in what should be an entertaining battle for the Southwest Division title.

Josh Howard scored 23 points, and Jason Terry and Devin Harris added 18 apiece as the Dallas Mavericks knocked off the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, 105-92, on Thursday.

Dirk Nowitzki chipped in 17 points for Dallas, which won its fifth straight and beat San Antonio for the fourth time in as many meetings.

The Mavericks won 67 games last season and unseated the Spurs as division champions, but didn't get a chance to face them in the playoffs. Dallas was stunned in the first round by Golden State in six games, while the Spurs went on to win their fourth title in six years.

"Year-in and year-out, everyone talks about the Spurs as the team to beat", Howard said. "I think we are probably one of the only teams that can beat them consistently. I think we deserve some respect just like they do, but I think it comes with winning championships as well. We've just got to get back to that point again."

Meanwhile, Terry said he didn't feel like it was statement game.

"No not necessarily," he said. "I mean it's just another game early on in the season against a great team, the defending champions, but we did what we had to do at home and we've got to see them three more times so a long ways to go."

Finals MVP Tony Parker shot just 1-of-10 and scored four points, and the Spurs shot just 38 percent (24-of-62) from the floor.

"We just wanted to keep Parker's penetrations to a minimum," Harris said. "He still got in the lane, he just missed a lot of floaters and a lot of shots tonight. His jump shot wasn't hitting and he just had one of those games."

Dallas jumped all over San Antonio early as the tandem of Howard and Nowitzki combined for 31 points in the first half to provide a 59-40 lead.

"Guys were ready to play," Howard said. "We were just playing uptempo. Coach wanted us to be aggressive and that's what we were doing."

The Spurs, who shot just 32 percent (14-of-43) in the first half, trailed the entire game and could only pull within 10 at 80-70 thanks to an 8-2 run in the final three minutes of the third period.

The Spurs trailed by double digits the entire fourth quarter, as Harris scored 14 points in the period.

"If it wasn't Devin Harris it was an offensive board or a turnover, a blocked shot or something", said Manu Ginobili, who scored 25 points. "It was always some little thing that really kept us from making that final run."

"He's showing a lot more confidence in his game", Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Harris. "He's not worried about making mistakes. He's taking the open jumpers that are given to him and he's attacking the rim real well. He's always been a good defender, but I think he shows a lot more confidence offensively."

Tim Duncan added 22 for San Antonio, which had won seven of its first eight games.