NEW YORK, Dec. 21 (Ticker) --
Quick starts by Dirk Nowitzki
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
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
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
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
collected 14 points and 11 rebounds for New York,
which surrendered 27 fast-break points.