NEW YORK, Dec. 21 (Ticker) -- Quick starts by Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard finished off the New York Knicks.

Nowitzki scored all 23 of his points in the first half and Howard added 16 of his career-high 26 before halftime as the Dallas Mavericks opened a huge lead and coasted to a 123-94 victory over the Knicks.

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As a rookie, Howard played 67 games, averaging 8.6 points and emerging as a solid defender on an offensive-minded team. However, he missed 15 games with a hamstring injury.

This season, Howard and Alan Henderson are the only Mavericks to appear in every game as the team had to deal with injuries to stars Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley. Howard's ability to stay healthy also has helped Dallas improve defensively.

The Mavericks allowed just nine opponents to shoot under 40 percent last season. After winning their fifth straight road game and holding the Knicks to 38 percent (35-of-93) from the floor, they have already done it eight times.

"Josh has been one of my best players this year," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "If you were going to say one of the guys that were healthy and played every game, Josh Howard and Alan Henderson were two guys who I was most concerned about. Because Josh had a lot of history with his hamstring, I thought it would be nice if he could stay more healthy. I didn't expect him to play every game."

"I knew I was playing hard," Howard said. "I didn't know it was career-best. But I knew I was playing hard."

Entering with season averages of 11.7 points and 7.3 rebounds, Howard's most productive game of his young career came in Dallas' most lopsided win of the season. He had reached double figures in his previous four games and continued to demonstrate improvement as the Mavericks improved to 9-3 on the road.

Howard made 7-of-17 shots and 12-of-13 free throws. He also had 16 rebounds and three of Dallas' 10 steals while anchoring a zone defense that held Knicks guards Jamal Crawford and Stephon Marbury to a combined 19 points on 5-of-24 shooting.

"He has been big for us all season long," Nowitzki said. "He is our best defender. He is very long and active."

"Our zone bothered them, I think," Nelson added. "I'm not surprised. We've done a lot of research on them."

The Mavericks never trailed as Howard, Nowitzki and Michael Finley keyed a 29-8 run that put the game out of reach and gave Dallas a 65-34 advantage with 2:02 remaining in the first half. Dallas led 35-19 after one quarter and outscored New York, 38-13, over the final 10-plus minutes en route to a 75-39 lead at intermission.

Nowitzki, who scored all 23 of his points before halftime, including 12 in the second quarter. In the first half, he and Howard combined for more points than the Knicks, who shot less than 30 percent (13-of-44) while allowing the Mavericks to shoot 62 percent (26-of-42).

"We just got beat up bad today and there is nothing we can do about that," Marbury said. "Dallas just came out smoking from the beginning. We just never got into the game."

The rout was so impressive that the Mavericks doubled the Knicks for most of the second and third quarters. They opened their largest lead at 95-49 with 4:04 to go in third period and reached the century mark before the fourth quarter.

"It's crazy, it's like a video game," Howard said.

"You don't have a 40-point lead very often in this league," Nelson said. "When you do, it's nice, you want to make sure that you don't somehow blow it. I thought the third quarter was the key to the whole game."

The Mavericks' seventh straight win over the Knicks and most lopsided in the series also allowed Nelson to rest Nowitzki, who had his teeth knocked out in a collison with teammate Jason Terry and Atlanta's Jason Collier on Saturday.

The All-Star played 28 minutes before sitting down with three minutes left in the third period and spending the rest of the rout talking with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

The Knicks never were within single digits from midway through the first quarter and suffered their second-worst loss of the season. They had won four of five and were trying to climb three games over .500 for the first time since the 2000-01 season but were booed all game by the Madison Square Garden crowd.

Nazr Mohammed collected 14 points and 11 rebounds for New York, which surrendered 27 fast-break points.