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Howard, Nowitzki lead as Mavericks cruise past Grizzlies

Jan 29, 2008 - 4:58 AM By Jason Smith PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Josh Howard scored a game-high 26 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 20 to help the Dallas Mavericks cruise to a 103-84 road victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum on Monday.

It was the Mavericks' 13th straight victory over the Grizzlies, a span that includes a four-game sweep of Memphis in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.

"Mainly our guys were focused," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "They played tough on both ends and stuck with the game plan. We established our post game early in the game. We were physical, which set the tone for the rest of the game."

Point guard Jason Terry added 14 points and center Erick Dampier chipped in 11 and 12 rebounds for Dallas, which led by as many as 29 points in the third quarter.

Memphis forward Rudy Gay's two free throws with 6:34 left to play cut Dallas' advantage to 93-77, but Howard, who made his first eight shots, answered with a layup on the other end. He also split a pair of free throws with 4:39 left to push the Mavericks' lead back to 19 and put the game out of reach.

"Every team's a great team, especially on their home court," said Howard, who finished 10-of-17 from the floor. "So we had to take this game seriously, like we're going to take the next three (road games). It's a great start and we've got three more to go."

Memphis had been outscored 21-9 over the first 9:10 of the third quarter to fall behind 82-53.

Kyle Lowry's 3-pointer from the left corner capped a 9-0 run for Memphis late in the quarter, but Dallas, which finished 54 percent (43-of-80) from the field, still led 84-63 after three.

"They're a tough team. They came out knocking shots down and we started slow," Gay said. "It's like a trend. Every time we start slow this kind of thing happens. We understand that now, so we've got to work on getting better leads."

Gay led the Grizzlies with 18 points. Lowry had 17 and reserve guard Juan Carlos Navarro added 16 off the bench for Memphis, which finished 42 percent (30-of-72) from the field.

Forward Pau Gasol, who missed Memphis' last two games with a sore back, had 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

The Mavericks, who were without forward Jerry Stackhouse (right hamstring) and Devin Harris (left ankle), led by as many as 17 points in the first half, as Howard and Nowitzki combined to score 33 points before intermission to match the output of the Grizzlies' entire starting five.

Brandon Bass' 13-footer in the paint with four-tenths of a second remaining in the second quarter gave Dallas a 61-44 lead at the break.

"We know when guys are out we've got enough guys who can come in and make shots," Nowitzki said. "We're not worried. It doesn't hurt in the short term as much if guys are out. It's the long term that does, especially if they are starters."

The Mavericks connected on nine of their first 11 shots in building a 33-19 advantage after one quarter. Howard scored 14 points in the opening period on 5-of-5 shooting.

"Obviously they got off to a good start and wanted to make a statement," first-year Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. "Unfortunately, we did not get off to a good start. I thought defensively, although we were playing hard, they were getting too many easy shots and making their shots when they got them."

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