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Mavs struggle but get past Heat

Jan 5, 2008 - 7:24 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks wrapped up a perfect homestand with a victory on Friday over the undermanned Miami Heat.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points and Josh Howard had a big fourth quarter as the Mavericks posted a 94-89 victory over the reeling Heat.

The Mavericks completed a perfect three-game homestand with the win and are 16-3 overall at American Airlines Arena.

"They played hard, they had a really solid first half. They took it to us. We were on our heels," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "We talked about it at halftime and we came and had a much better third and fourth quarter. They were shooting a high percentage from the field."

The Heat have lost six consecutive games and are just 2-9 in their last 11 games.

Miami again played without Shaquille O'Neal, who missed his third straight game with left hip soreness. Dwyane Wade also sat out with injuries to his right pinkie and right shoulder.

In addition, the Heat were without point guard Jason Williams (sore left knee) and forward Dorell Wright (sprained ankle).

"It's just the same ole for us, whether with our starters or with this group," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "We got a great game out of these guys tonight. I really felt we played hard enough to win, probably even deserved to win, but making some mistakes, missing some free throws, point blank lay up at the end maybe. It just didn't go our way. The bottom line is that you've got to close it. You've got to close it out and finish it."

Despite being shorthanded, the Heat were down just 90-89 in the closing seconds. Ricky Davis drove to the hoop and appeared to have an easy layup but he failed to convert after getting hit on the head by Howard.

There was no call on the play and the Mavericks escaped after Howard hit two free throws and capped the scoring with a dunk off a steal by Devin Harris.

"I thought I was fouled, but it's a tough call that late in the game. I've got to take it a little stronger and make it look at little better," Davis said. "(Howard) hit me in the head a little bit, but in that type of situation you've got to take it even tougher and make the play. Make it a little obvious."

Howard scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and Eddie Jones had 17 for Dallas.

"My shot just wasn't falling tonight, but I stuck with it along Dirk and we just finished the fourth quarter off," Howard said. "We had to really keep fighting tonight. They seemed to have a lot of points in the paint in the first three quarters, and we were able to even that out in the fourth quarter and go on to win the game."

Davis and Mark Blount each scored 17 points for the Heat.

"Everybody on this team is a professional. The guys came out hard and tried to focus on what they had to do - I don't know if you call it spirited," Blount said. "We were right there all the way, so a couple turnovers here and there, a couple free throws (we may've won). It's been same ole for us so we've just got to focus on the defensive end right now."

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