DALLAS, Jan. 31 (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks were cruising to their ninth straight win but only got there through the grit of Adrian Griffin.

The Mavericks nearly blew a 30-point second-half lead but got a handful of hustle plays from Griffin to hold on for a 98-94 victory over the pesky Chicago Bulls, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.

NBA TV highlights from
Josh Howard scored 22 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 21 for Dallas, which looked very shaky in the second half but remained unbeaten at home (8-0) against the Eastern Conference.

"We're not arrogant enough (to be unhappy with a win)," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. You've got a lot of teams in this league that wish that, No. 1, that they'd ever be up 24 points, and (No.) 2, if they were up and a team outscored you 18-2 or 16-0, that they could hold a team off."

The sharp offense of the Mavericks built a 73-45 lead midway through the third period before being brought to a grinding halt by a zone defense sprung by the Bulls, who were running out of time and alternatives.

"They mixed it up with zones, we stopped executing, took long shots and that really put them in a transition game," Nowitzki said. "Then all of a sudden they got hot. You've got to give them credit. They made shots from all over the floor and came back in that game. Obviously, we were lucky to still come away with the win."

Chicago rattled off 16 straight points to make it a game again, then closed to 78-72 early in the fourth quarter on two free throws by Kirk Hinrich, who scored 26 of his season-high 28 points in the second half.

"We were able to get some stops and get out and run and for whatever reason we just started playing," Hinrich said. "I don't know if we were playing not to be embarrassed, but something went off in our heads and we played with no fear. I just wanted to get out and run to push the issue because really, that's the only way we had a chance to get back in the game."

Howard made a jumper and two free throws to rebuild the lead to double digits, but the Bulls kept coming, closing to 89-84 on a 3-pointer by Andres Nocioni with 5:28 left.

Howard beat the shot clock with a jumper from the short corner and Nowitzki drained a 3-pointer to give Dallas a 94-84 bulge with 4:33 remaining. Griffin made sure Chicago got no closer than the final margin.

After Howard missed a jumper, Griffin stripped Nocioni of the rebound, leading to a pair free throws by Jason Terry that made it 96-88 with 1:04 to play.

"I just try to contribute to the team, said Griffin, a former Bull who had four points, six rebounds and four assists. "I know my roll. I'm not in there to score 30 points. I feel like I've got to play defense. A lot of attention is always on Dirk, JT (Terry), Josh and all of them, so that just leaves me to kind of roam and get a lot of loose balls."

"He got some big stops and rebounds for us and stopped them from getting some rebounds and that is what he's here for," Johnson said.

With Dallas holding a six-point lead, Chicago missed four 3-pointers before Griffin finally got the rebound and sank two foul shots to seal it with 12 seconds left.

"We had our chances," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We just couldn't make enough shots at the end."

Terry scored all 13 of his points in the second half and Keith Van Horn added 12 for the Mavericks (35-10), who went 13-2 in January and remain tied with San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference.

Nocioni and Ben Gordon scored 14 points each for Chicago, which has lost 15 of its last 16 meetings with Dallas.

In the first half, the Mavericks made it look easy, shooting 53 percent (20-of-38) and racing to a 58-34 lead. Howard drilled a pair of 3-pointers and scored 14 points, Nowitzki added 11 on 4-of-4 shooting and Van Horn and Jerry Stackhouse added nine apiece off the bench.

The Bulls were still bumbling at the outset of the second half, and Howard's hoop made it 69-39 with 8:11 left in the third quarter.

"We were really ready to play tonight," Howard said. "We had a big lead and probably let our guard down a little bit, and Chicago's a good team and they came back on us.

"We just waited too long to start playing," Skiles said. "We kind of just sleepwalked through 2 1/2 quarters. Then near the end of the third quarter we finally started getting aggressive. We started driving the ball and our defense picked up."