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Nowitzki, Mavs earn first win in series vs. Hornets

Apr 26, 2008 - 4:30 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks held true to form at American Airlines Center.

Nowitzki had 32 points and 19 rebounds to lead a balanced attack in Game Three as the Mavericks continued their domination at home with a 97-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in their Western Conference first-round series on Friday.

Jason Terry poured in 22 points in his first start of the series and Josh Howard added 18 for the Mavericks, who picked up their first win in this best-of-seven series.

"Jet (Terry) was highly motivated like all of our men, and fortunately (Chris) Paul missed some shots, but I thought Jet had a lot of energy and it takes a lot of energy to attempt to guard Paul," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "We brought a lot of energy to our defense and we simplified pretty much every single thing we were doing against him."

It was the Mavericks' 12th consecutive victory at home over the Hornets, who haven't captured a win here since January 24, 1998 back when the club was located in Charlotte.

"We have to treat Game Four like it's Game Seven, just like Dallas did," Hornets coach Byron Scott said.

Jannero Pargo carried the load with a postseason career-high 30 points off the bench for New Orleans, which looks to bounce back on Sunday in Game Four.

"(Pargo) played extremely well. He made shots and luckily he did cause if he didn't we probably lose by 25," Scott said. "I might have to bring him in early (as the series goes on) especially if they're going to continue to start Jason Terry, because, like I said, I think he matches up with him as far as his speed and his quickness and he's one of our most energetic players as well."

Nowitzki, who is the reigning league MVP, completed a three-point play with 6:45 left as the Mavericks opened a commanding 15-point advantage in the fourth quarter.

"(Nowitzki's) been great. He's been great all season long actually," Terry said. "He's been a lot more vocal and he's shown a lot of enthusiasm when someone else makes a good play - and that's all part of being a leader."

But New Orleans drew within 83-90 when Paul fed Tyson Chandler for an alley-oop dunk at the 2:02 mark. But on the next possession, Terry hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to push it back to double figures.

With the game already in hand for Dallas, things got edgy when Erick Dampier committed a flagrant foul on Paul, who stepped to the 7-footer before teammates closed in.

The Mavericks built on their first-half momentum when Howard hit two free throws, capping an 11-5 surge to open the third and make it 58-45 at the 8:42 mark in the third.

"For us, it's been the third quarter in this series," Mavericks guard Jason Kidd said. "No matter if we've had the lead or not, we've come out kind of flat and we were aggressive, took the ball strong to the basket and trying to get to the line and we did that."

In a radio interview earlier on Friday, the 27-year-old Howard admitted to smoking marijuana during the offseason. However, he dismissed the notion that it influenced his performance on the court.

Paul's floater in the lane helped New Orleans grab its first lead of the first half at 34-32 with 5:24 remaining in the second. But Dallas battled back behind a 15-6 run to close the period and take a 47-40 lead at intermission.

"You've got to give (Dallas) credit," Scott said. "I thought from the start of the game, they outworked us. That was the first thing. They just outworked us. They were more physical, more aggressive and they outworked us."

A serious candidate for MVP honors this season, Paul finished with just 16 points on 4-of-18 shooting after being almost unstoppable over the first two games.

"They threw different coverages at Chris, and he had a rough night shooting," Hornets forward Peja Stojakovic said. "His whole team did. We've got to come back next game and help Chris be more effective. We all have to be aggressive and be on the same page on both ends of the floor."

"We're just trying to make it as hard as possible for (Paul), contest his shots and see what happens," Terry said. "He's a great player and you are not going to stop him, but as long as we limit the guys around him and not let him get 30 points, 20 assists then we put ourselves in a good position to win and that's what we did."