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Howard, Mavericks continue dominance of Bulls

Dec 4, 2007 - 5:47 AM By Rory Spears PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CHICAGO (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks continued their dominance of the Chicago Bulls, posting a 103-98 victory at the United Center on Monday night.

Josh Howard collected 27 points and 10 rebounds and has now scored 20 or more in 10 of his 15 games this season for the Mavericks, who have won 17 of their last 19 contests against the Bulls.

Dirk Nowitzki added 25 points for Dallas, which won for just the third time in its last seven games.

"We haven't been playing great even though we have 12 wins," Nowitzki said. "There has been a lack of consistency on both ends of the floor. We have some good quarters and some good halves, but really haven't put together an entire game yet."

Holding a 16-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulls went on a frantic fourth-quarter run that was too little, too late. Chicago's 21-10 spurt cut its deficit to five on Luol Deng's three-point play with 1:05 left.

"This was a tough game," Deng said. "I hit some shots but I missed too many shots that were close to the basket."

The teams then traded baskets until Andres Nocioni was fouled attempting a 3-pointer and nailed all three free throws to make it 101-98 with 11.6 left. But that was as close as Chicago would get.

"Dallas is a good team," Nocioni said. "You can't let them get a big lead and expect to comeback."

The Bulls could not steal the ensuing inbounds pass and were forced to foul Jason Terry, who nailed two free throws to provide the final margin with 9.7 seconds left.

"That's my job on this team," Terry said. "Step up in the fourth quarter and let the guys find me."

Dallas started quickly opening up a 10-point lead on a layup by Devin Harris with 4:21 left in the first quarter. But the Bulls cut their deficit in half and trailed, 29-24, after one quarter.

The Mavericks built their lead back to 45-34 on two free throws by Howard with 6:23 left in the second quarter. Chicago then fought back again, cutting its deficit to 45-40 on rookie Joakim Noah's layup.

Dallas finished the half on a 11-4 run, led by Nowitzki's six points, en route to the Mavericks' 56-44 lead at intermission.

"Josh really was big for us in the first half," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "His scoring really gave us a lift."

"My shot was feeling good all night," Howard said. "After the poor ending in New Orleans the other night, I am glad we hung on and won."

Harris left the game in the third quarter after a collision with Noah. He did not return and was diagnosed with a neck contusion.

"It's just a strain," Harris said. "The X-rays were negative and I am day to day."

Deng and Ben Gordon, who each posted season highs last Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats, combined for just 21 points in this one. Deng scored 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and Gordon added 10 on 4-of-16.

"We didn't shoot the ball very well tonight," Gordon said. "I can't remember a time when this team has continually shot the ball this bad."

Howard's defense on Deng didn't hurt either.

"I took it as a challenge to guard him," Howard said. "I tried to limit his shots as much as possible and stay from bad fouls."

Nocioni scored 30 points and Kirk Hinrich added 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter for Chicago, which saw its brief two-game winning streak come to an end.

"We're all disappointed," Hinrich said. "We had a chance, but they are a good team, give them the credit, they beat us."

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