DALLAS, Dec. 18 (Ticker) -- Josh Howard helped the Dallas Mavericks return to form at the American Airlines Center.

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Howard scored eight of his 13 points in the first quarter and grabbed nine rebounds as the Mavericks snapped a three-game home losing streak with a 90-68 rout of the Atlanta Hawks, who have lost five in a row.

The best home team in the league last season, when it was a franchise-best 36-5, Dallas was a mediocre 7-6 this season after losing to Golden State on Tuesday. But the Mavericks bounced back in a big way against the Hawks.

"The win came just in time because we definately didn't want to lose another one at home," Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. "We weren't playing well."

Howard and Erick Dampier combined to score 13 points in a game-opening 16-3 run and Atlanta, which was playing its fifth game in eight days, never threatened thereafter.

"We had to jump on those guys and run them up and down," Howard said. "They've been playing a lot of games the last couple of weeks and we wanted to jump on them."

Dallas held Atlanta to 24 percent (5-of-21) shooting in the first quarter, which rookie Devin Harris capped with a thunderous dunk over Peja Drobnjak, giving the Mavs a 27-12 lead.

"We went with the rookie because he has been our best point guard (in practice)," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "We thought we would reward him with an opportunity tonight and he did very well."

Dirk Nowitzki, who missed most of the first quarter after hitting Terry's head with his mouth when Jason Collier fouled him, scored 11 of his 15 points in the second quarter to lift Dallas to a 51-28 advantage at the break.

Nowitzki had bridge work knocked out on the hit and was forced to play the second quarter without it.

"I was lucky that my dentist was at the game," Nowitzki said. "He put it back in at halftime. It was a hard blow. I reached up with my tongue and felt it was loose right away."

The Hawks, who never got closer than 20 points in the second half, shot 37 percent (30-of-81) and were held to season lows in points for a game and half.

"We just couldn't make shots, but our defense was solid," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Offensively, I have to help us get better because we have struggled."

Atlanta's 68 points also match a franchise low for a Dallas opponent.

"We needed a game where we came out defensively and played the way we practice," said Terry, who scored 12 points in his first start of the season. "We did that tonight."

Antoine Walker scored 13 points in his first game in Dallas since being traded to Atlanta in the offseason for Terry.

"It was nice to see a lot of people I hadn't seen in a while, but I wish the outcome had been better," Walker said. "We've got to start playing better basketball. We're better than the way we played tonight."

The lone bright spot for the Hawks was the play of rookie Josh Smith who had nine points, seven rebounds and blocked a season-high 10 shots.

"We did well on defense," said Smith, whose 10 blocks were the most in the NBA this season. "I was just doing my part. I came over from the weak side and got a couple of blocks. We need more offense."

"I watched that kid all summer when I was in Atlanta and the kid's just tremendously athletic," Terry said. "If he can just continue to work on his game, he's going to be a dominant factor in this league."