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Nowitzki helps Mavericks crush Sonics

Jan 20, 2008 - 5:55 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- After having their seven-game winning streak snapped in a defensive breakdown on Monday night, the Dallas Mavericks took out their frustrations on the lowly Seattle SuperSonics four days later.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and added nine rebounds and six assists as the Mavericks surged to an early lead and coasted to a 111-96 victory over the SuperSonics.

Josh Howard and Devin Harris chipped in 17 apiece for Dallas, which beat Seattle for the 12th straight time by holding it to just 44 percent (35-of-79) shooting from the field.

"We really worked on defense," Harris said. "That's one of the things we focused on the two days that we practiced was communicating on defense and understanding the things that we were doing wrong and tried to correct it."

The Mavericks had gone 10 straight games without allowing 100 points before surrendering 122 to the Sacramento Kings on Monday. The Kings shot 51 percent (44-of-87) and gutted the Mavericks' defense for 67 second-half points.

But the defensive intensity was evident from the beginning on Saturday, as Dallas opened the game with a 15-5 run that was capped by Howard's layup and a free throw at 7:55. The Mavericks would finish the opening period with a 33-24 advantage with Nowitzki pouring in 10 points.

"It was very important to us to get one of those quarters where we get 30 points and hold them down and really get out in transition and do the things that we do," Harris said. "The ball was moving and we got everything that we wanted."

Seattle cut its deficit to 37-34 on Luke Ridnour's jumper early in the second quarter, but Dallas took any suspense out of the proceedings with a 29-10 run to close the half and take a 66-44 lead into the locker room.

"The first 18 to 20 minutes of the game we were OK," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "The first half we got after it defensively. Our energy was pretty good, we were pretty focused."

Harris scored nine points in the second.

"I felt great," Harris said. "My motor was going with the (four days') rest. Avery did a great job of working in some stuff but not really killing us on the four days off, and I think it showed."

Wally Szczerbiak led the Sonics with 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting and star rookie Kevin Durant had one of his worst nights as an NBA player, going 3-of-12 from the floor to tie a season low with six points.

"I kind of put that on myself," Durant said. "I came out and missed some easy shots. I mean shots that I was licking my chops. They looked like they were good shots. I took a 3-pointer and I had missed two shots before that so coach took me out and told me to go to the basket. That's just something I've got to learn."

"It's kind of hard to come back to the place where you played college ball," Howard said about Durant, who plyed at Texas. "I think either you show up or you don't. I remember my first time going back to North Carolina, I don't think I played my best game. It comes with the territory. The next time he comes down here he'll probably be ready."

It was the 10th straight loss for Seattle - tying the franchise's longest string of futility, set in December 1968.

"Nobody likes to lose," Durant said. "You know how it is. I know you don't like to lose. It's hard. We've just got to stay positive and know everything is going to work out. I mean that's how we're all looking at it."

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