DALLAS, March 17 (Ticker) -- Firing Maurice Cheeks apparently was not the answer for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Josh Howard had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Michael Finley added 17 points as the Dallas Mavericks handed the Trail Blazers their third straight loss and ninth in 10 games, 98-94.

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After losing seven of nine games to fall to 22-33, the Trail Blazers fired coach Cheeks on March 2 and replaced him on an interim basis with Kevin Pritchard. But the move has had no effect on Portland, which dropped to 1-7 under its new coach.

"The situation we're in right now, we're trying to let the young guys play a little bit," Portland's Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. "We're kind of a team in transition. I think everybody understands where we are right now. Fully loaded, we're a much better team than what you see right now. We've got a lot of guys who are not here."

While disappointed with the loss, Pritchard was not unhappy with his team's effort.

"As a coach, I couldn't be prouder of a team," he said. "This is exactly what we wanted to accomplish. If you didn't care who won the game, that was a great basketball game. The effort was there, the desire was there."

The Blazers played well at the start of this one, using a 10-0 run sparked by five points from Richie Frahm for a 22-11 lead with 58 seconds to go in the first quarter.

"We can't keep starting out like this," Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. "I don't think it is going to keep up. I know we can play much better."

Portland watched a 10-point lead slip to just two midway through the second quarter as Dallas used an 8-0 burst to pull within 34-32 with 5:45 remaining. In the third period, the Mavericks took their first lead since the halfway mark of the opening quarter, 48-46, on a pair of free throws by Shawn Bradley with 10:25 left.

But the Blazers regained the advantage and built it to seven points before settling for a 67-66 edge heading into the fourth.

Seeking their third win in four games, the Mavericks came alive in the final 12 minutes as Howard scored 10 points and Dirk Nowitzki - who was just 2-of-8 for four points in the first half - added seven.

"Dallas is a good team," Pritchard said. "Nowitzki didn't have his greatest game, but they seemed to come up with a play at the end of the game."

Dallas moved ahead for good, 93-90, with 1:59 remaining on a 3-pointer by Howard, who was playing with flu-like symptoms.

"I just came out trying to play while not feeling well, just trying to get my legs under me and it worked out," Howard said. "For me to come out and play well took a lot. I could have sat down and not played, but this is an important time of the year right now. We need all of the guys we have to play."

"Josh Howard played well," Portland's Joel Przybilla said. "He stepped up big on a night when Dirk had an off night."

Marquis Daniels scored 16 points, Nowitzki had 15 and nine rebounds, Keith Van Horn added 15 and Terry 12 and seven assists for the Mavericks, who improved to 3-0 against the Blazers this season but are just 4-4 in their last eight home games overall.

"We want to win every game at home," Howard said. "I don't think it's about establishing, I just think that as a team we need to concentrate harder."

Damon Stoudamire and Abdur-Rahim each scored 20 points, Sebastian Telfair had 16 and six assists and Przybilla 16 and 13 boards for Portland, which has dropped 14 of its last 17 games.