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Nowitzki returns for Mavericks in rout of Warriors

Apr 3, 2008 - 6:03 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup and the Dallas Mavericks posted a crucial 111-86 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

The reigning MVP, Nowitzki was in the starting five for Dallas after missing the previous four games due to a high ankle sprain.

In 27 minutes, Nowitzki scored 18 points and added five rebounds in his surprise return.

"There were a lot of limitations. I didn't think I had a lot of lift early," Nowitzki said. "I tried to keep the game as simple as I could, post up a little bit and be more of a spot-up shooter."

"I thought a big difference was Nowitzki playing and it's quite and inspiration to their ball club," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "They just went to a different level that we've seen this year, and if they can keep that level going, they're as good as anybody in the West. I thought they played a sensational game - not that we were much competition tonight."

Nowitzki seemed to move well, but was not fully himself. Not that it mattered.

Jason Terry scored 31 points and Josh Howard added 28 for Dallas (47-28), which is a game ahead of Denver for the seventh spot in the Western Conference.

Terry was 11-of-21 from the field and tied his season high in points while Howard continued his strong play of late. He is averaging 30.2 points over his last five games.

"I have to stay aggressive," Howard said. "My teammates are depending on me and I am depending on them and we're fighting to get into the playoffs, so I have to stay aggressive for the rest of the games we have remaining."

Dallas does not have any games left with Golden State, but it did win the season series, 3-1, and hold an all-important tiebreaker edge.

"We didn't want to share the tiebreaker with those guys," Howard said. "We wanted to be up, so we'd have some leverage at the end."

Golden State (45-30) is a game back of Denver after suffering consecutive losses for the first time since January 2-4.

Dallas never trailed and took the lead for good on a jumper by Howard that made it 10-8 with 7:16 to play in the first quarter.

The Mavericks led 29-25 after one and methodically extended their lead. They were up 60-50 at the half and 89-69 after three.

"Our defense was just awesome tonight," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "You don't really hear me say that much."

"They were running - they just out-ran us," Golden State guard Baron Davis said. "How many times do you say that we got out-run? But that's what happened. We got out-run. And I just think that we got tired. At this point, you've got to be able to shake off tough losses like this and get to the next game and, win or lose, it's important to be ready for the next game."

Jason Kidd had 17 assists for Dallas, which had a season-high 35 assists on 45 field goals.

Monta Ellis scored 27 points and Baron Davis added 20 for Golden State.

Ellis and Davis dis not get much help and the league's highest scoring team (110.8) was held way below its average. Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington combined to shoot 2-of-20 from the field and score eight points."

"In order for us to win, I have to play a lot better," Jackson said. "I was 2-for-12 last game and 1-for-11 (tonight). I've got to play a lot better, so that's basically it. I play better we win. Ain't got nothing to do with the assists - I play better, we win."

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