Howard, Wright lead Mavs past Kings

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks had only two days to prepare for the start of an indefinite stretch of games of without sixth-man standout Jason Terry.

A big part of their initial plan was to get Josh Howard and Antoine Wright more involved. That worked in the first game against one of the NBA's worst teams.

Wright scored 23 points, his best scoring game in nearly three months, Howard also had 23 points, and the Mavericks won 118-100 over Sacramento on Tuesday night to make the Kings the first NBA team guaranteed to have a losing season.

Wright even got some pregame motivation from Terry, who broke his left hand against Chicago over the weekend and had surgery Monday. Terry is expected to be out three to six weeks.

"Jet [Terry] sent me a text and said 'You know we need you right now so you've got to play big,'" Wright said. "I had to be aggressive and play to my strengths and it worked out."

Howard scored the first eight points for Dallas, then Wright scored 11 in a decisive third quarter that followed a different kind of motivation from coach Rick Carlisle at halftime.

Even though the Kings are the first team with 42 losses, and still have 29 games remaining, they did beat Dallas 102-95 at home on Jan. 11. They have lost 13 of 15 since.

"We had to remind ourselves of how those guys beat us bad out there. We had to take it personal," Wright said. "Coach came in here and said, 'Bleep, bleep, bleep, get out there and bleep.' We came out and played harder."

Dirk Nowitzki added 21 points, Jason Kidd had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Erick Dampier had 16 rebounds. J.J. Barea, the primary fill-in for Terry, had 10 points and four assists without a turnover in 25 1/2 minutes.

With four starters scoring in double figures, Dallas didn't need the kind of bench production it usually depends on from Terry, their second-leading scorer with 19.9 points a game.

"These guys all knew that the slack was going to have to be taken up in a collective way," Carlisle said.

Still, Carlisle was upset at halftime, when the Mavericks led 62-57.

"Our defense in the first half was pathetic," Carlisle said. "If we step out there on Thursday like that, we've got no chance."

That's when the Mavs play Boston.

After its highest-scoring first quarter of the season, Dallas fell behind when the Kings scored the first nine points of the second for a 40-38 lead.

Dallas then responded with a 12-0 run in which Brandon Bass scored all six of his points and the Mavericks never trailed again. Bass also had a steal that led to Nowitzki's go-ahead 19-foot jumper with 7:26 left in the first half.

"Somehow or another we have to find a way to get 48 minutes of play," Kings coach Kenny Natt said. "We played hard and played well in the first half but we were just unable to bring that energy in the third quarter."

Kevin Martin had 18 points, though he missed nine consecutive shots at one point for Sacramento. John Salmons had 16 and Shelden Williams 15.

"It's frustrating to be losing, but we've got to stick together,' Martin said.

Wright was only one point short of his season high, set Nov. 25 against Indiana. His highest total in 26 games since had been 15, and he had that by the end of the third quarter.

The third-quarter outburst by Wright included a fastbreak layup on a pass from Kidd that made it 74-63 with 6:52 left and put Dallas ahead by double figures for the rest of the game. When Wright made another jumper on another pass from Kidd, it was 86-67.

Wright's layup on a pass from Kidd 6:17 into the game made it 18-14 and were the first points scored by someone other than Nowitzki or Howard for the Mavs.

"It's got to be a complete team effort with the Jet," Howard said. "Antoine came in and played great along with everyone else. We've got to keep doing this."

Game notes
The Kings were without C Brad Miller (hip flexor, fifth game) and backup post player Mikki Moore, who was absent for personal reasons after attending the morning shootaround. ... Just before tipoff, Nowitzki went to midcourt and told the fans how much he looked forward to representing them at the All-Star Game this weekend. ... Despite a significant number of empty seats, the Mavs announced their 300th consecutive home sellout, the NBA's longest streak.