MIAMI (AP) -- The Miami Heat have been among the NBA's best teams
at home over the last couple of seasons.
That is, except when the Dallas Mavericks make their once-a-year
trip to South Florida.
Josh Howard scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Dirk
Nowitzki hit a couple of big 3-pointers to cap his 23-point effort
as the Mavericks squandered most of a 15-point lead before
recovering to beat Miami 103-90 on Friday night -- the second
straight time Dallas has won on the Heat's home court.
Erick Dampier scored 17 points, Marquis Daniels added 14 and
Jason Terry had 10 points and 10 assists for Dallas, which extended
the league's longest winning streak to seven and snapped Miami's
string of six straight home victories.
"It's a fun place to play," Nowitzki said after his team
handed Miami only its eighth loss in the past 61 home
regular-season games. "It's a great city. The fans get into it.
Obviously, the team they have is great, so it's easy to motivate
And whenever the fans got into it on Friday, Howard and Nowitzki
came to the rescue.
The Heat, who trailed for the game's final 43 minutes, got
within two points on three occasions in the second half -- yet never
recaptured the lead. Jason Williams' driving layup with 9:15 left
got Miami within 76-74, but Dallas answered with the next 10 points
-- including seven straight by Howard -- to reclaim control.
"We know how to play well with a lead," Howard said. "We let
them slip back in, but we kept fighting and finished the game."
Later, it was Nowitzki's turn to silence the crowd. His
3-pointer with 4:31 left gave Dallas a 91-78 lead; Miami scored the
next four points, but Nowitzki hit another 3-pointer about a minute
later to seal the win.
"We stayed mentally focused, especially on the offensive end,"
Howard said. "We made sure that they only got one shot and we got
the rebound. We went down and finished on the other end. We hit
some big shots and we hit our free throws at the end -- which was
Williams scored a season-high 24 points for Miami. Dwyane Wade
added 23 for the Heat, which also got 14 from Udonis Haslem, and 13
from Alonzo Mourning -- who had six blocks, adding to his
NBA-leading average this season.
"I don't really care about my offensive night," Williams said.
"We just need to get some wins."
Dallas was 8-of-15 from 3-point range, hitting many at critical
times and taking momentum away from the Heat -- who were 0-for-11
from behind the arc and missed nine of their 29 free-throw
But Heat coach Stan Van Gundy chose to point the blaming finger
in his own direction.
"At the offensive end, I didn't do a good job," Van Gundy
said. "I didn't find stuff for us to run."
The win pushed Mavericks coach Avery Johnson's regular-season
record to 25-4, which moved him one win away from matching the best
30-game start in NBA history. Al Cervi's career began with a 26-4
record with the Syracuse Nationals in the 1949-50 season.
"Dallas has been scoring a lot of points," Heat forward James
Posey said. "And now that Avery's the head man, they've got
defense to go with it as well."
Dallas led by as many as 15 in the first half -- the largest
deficit Miami had faced this season -- before settling for a 57-45
lead at intermission.
Haslem opened the second half with consecutive jump shots, and
Williams made two free throws to quickly trim Dallas' 12-point lead
in half. But Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer and added a three-point play
in an 88-second span to extend the Mavericks' cushion back to
Miami scored the next 10 points, with Wade and Mourning each
getting four apiece, to get within 63-62 -- but again, the Heat
didn't take the lead. And when Van Horn hit another 3-pointer with
3:19 left in the quarter, Dallas' lead was back at 70-63.
"They made a run. They're a very good basketball team,"
Johnson said. "The second half, they got it within two, and we
just suggested 'stay tough-minded.' And we were able to get
somewhat of a cushion."
Miami was without Shaquille O'Neal for the 10th straight
game because of his sprained right ankle. ... The Mavericks wore
their green-and-blue alternate road uniforms, which hip-hop mogul
Sean "Diddy" Combs designed last season. Wade has also modeled
Diddy's designs. ... The Heat missed their first four free throws.
... Before the game, Dallas waived veteran guard Doug Christie, who
left the team last week to have his surgically repaired ankle
examined by a private physician. ... Miami lost to a Western
Conference team for the first time in five games.
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