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Nine is fine for Mavericks

Howard, Nowitzki combine for 43 in win over Hornets

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Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki goes up for a shot against New Orleans forward Rasual Butler during the Mavs' win Saturday.

Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki goes up for a shot against New Orleans forward Rasual Butler during the Mavs’ win Saturday.

Matt Slocum, Associated Press

Mavericks 85, Hornets 73

Josh Howard got his team off to a fast start, and the Dallas Mavericks coasted the rest of the way.

Howard scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter, and Dirk Nowitzki had 28 points and nine rebounds to help the Mavericks stretch their winning streak to nine games with an 85-73 home victory over the short-handed New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.

Howard, who also had seven rebounds, returned to the lineup for Friday night's 95-92 win at San Antonio after missing eight games due to a sprained ankle. On Saturday, Howard had more energy than his teammates, who were playing their sixth game in nine nights.

"Playing a back-to-back caught up with us, so we needed Josh's fresh legs," Dallas' Jerry Stackhouse said. "He got us off to a great start and everybody fed off that."

Howard had 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, while Dallas was opening the game on a 21-3 spurt. His 3-pointer with 6:32 left in the first period capped the run. The Mavericks were on such a roll (hitting nine of their first 12 field goal attempts) that Nowitzki, their top scorer, didn't even take a shot during the early run.

"It's good to be back," Howard said. "I was knocking my shot down in the first quarter. Any time I can knock it down, that takes pressure off my teammates and helps me get my drive back."

The Hornets' defense was determined to take away Howard's ability to drive to the basket, but Howard used the shooting room to nail three early long-range jumpers.

"We figured we'd give him the 3s," Hornets forward Desmond Mason said. "If he made 'em, we'd pat him on the back. We didn't want him to drive."

Erick Dampier added 11 points for the Mavericks, who have won 18 straight over the Hornets dating to November 1999, when the franchise was in Charlotte. That's the longest active streak in the NBA.

"I won't say we own them, but we know their personnel real well," Howard said. "I was in high school when it started."

Jannero Pargo scored 19 points and Chris Paul added 12 for the Hornets, who lost their third straight.

PISTONS 115, WIZARDS 111: At Washington, Chauncey Billups scored 29 points and Detroit set all sorts of season highs to stretch its winning streak to six games. Five Pistons scored in double figures, including Tayshaun Prince with 21, and Richard Hamilton with 18.Gilbert Arenas recovered from his worst game of the season with 28 points and 10 assists.

CAVALIERS 108, 76ERS 95: At Cleveland, LeBron James had 25 points and 11 assists, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored a season-high 18 for the Cavaliers. Ilgauskas added 15 rebounds. He tied a team record with 12 offensive boards for Cleveland.

HEAT 102, BOBCATS 93: At Charlotte, N.C., Dwyane Wade had 35 points and 12 assists to help the Heat snap a three-game losing streak. Alonzo Mourning, back in the city where he began his NBA career, added 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

MAGIC 98, HAWKS 79: At Orlando, Fla., Carlos Arroyo scored 15 points, Dwight Howard had 11 points and 11 rebounds, and the Magic coasted to the victory.

BULLS 106, KNICKS 95: At New York, Luol Deng scored 24 points, and Chicago ended a six-game losing. In a game that featured two ejections and another benching of Stephon Marbury, Chicago coach Scott Skiles was ejected early in the third quarter after picking up a pair of technical fouls for arguing.

TIMBERWOLVES 104, CLIPPERS 96: At Minneapolis, rookie Randy Foye scored 14 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, rallying Minnesota. Kevin Garnett added 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves.

ROCKETS 85, GRIZZLIES 76: At Houston, Yao Ming scored 28 points, and Tracy McGrady matched a career high with 13 assists for the Rockets. McGrady also had 19 points. Yao and Chuck Hayes each grabbed eight rebounds for Houston.

CELTICS 111, BUCKS 98: At Milwaukee, Paul Pierce scored 34 points and the Celtics rallied to beat Bucks. Milwaukee blew a 14-point halftime lead — something that's becoming a habit for the Bucks lately.

KINGS 105, BLAZERS 85: At Sacramento, Calif, Kevin Martin scored 27 points to lead Sacramento. Mike Bibby scored 20 points for the Kings, who snapped a two-game losing streak at Arco Arena.