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Howard has 21 and 11 in win; Nowitzki shoots 4-of-17

DALLAS (AP) -- After waking up with an upset stomach, Josh Howard
felt well enough to help keep the Dallas Mavericks from another
home loss.

Howard had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the Mavericks overcame
an off night by top scorer Dirk Nowitzki to beat the Portland Trail
Blazers 98-94 Thursday night.

Howard missed the team's morning shootaround with a stomach flu,
but he was in the starting lineup and scored 10 of Dallas' last 20
points, including a critical 3-pointer to break a 90-all tie with
1:59 left.

"I wasn't feeling well, so just for me to come out and play
well took a lot," said Howard, who estimated that he was feeling
"75 percent."

"I could have sat down and not played, but this is an important
part of the year right now. We need all the guys we have to play,"
Howard said.

Michael Finley had 17 points and Marquis Daniels added 16 for
the Mavericks, who had lost three of their previous five home
games.

Dallas is 21-12 at home, 21-10 on the road.

Nowitzki, averaging 26.7 points, finished with 15 points on
4-of-17 shooting. He hit four key free throws in the final minute
and grabbed nine rebounds, but was held below 20 points for the
first time in 10 games.

"Offensively we're struggling right now," said Nowitzki, who
rolled an ankle late in the first half on a layup but played 36
minutes. "We can't make shots, but at least we got the win."

Dallas shot 41 percent from the field (35-for-85).

Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Damon Stoudamire had 20 points each for
the lottery-bound Trail Blazers, who've lost three in a row and
nine of 10. Joel Przybilla and Sebastian Telfair added 16 points
apiece.

Portland was without Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, Nick Van Exel
and Ruben Patterson. Randolph, Van Exel and Patterson are injured.
Miles is with his mother, who is having surgery this week in
Portland.

"Our team was absolute heart and soul tonight ...," Portland
interim coach Kevin Pritchard said. "We're getting some guys in
there, playing the right way."

The Trail Blazers were far more competitive than they were on
Wednesday night when they lost 108-77 at Houston.

"We're getting better," Abdur-Rahim said. "If anything, we
can feel good about that, but we still lost."

After Howard's go-ahead 3-pointer, Przybilla converted two free
throws with 1:37 to play, pulling Portland within one.

Howard wasted an opportunity to widen Dallas' lead when he
missed two free throws with 1:19 remaining. Jason Terry made one of
two from the line with 35 seconds left to give Dallas a 94-92 lead.

Abdur-Rahim missed an eight-footer in the lane with 18 seconds
left, and Nowitzki hit four free throws in the final 17.7 seconds
to send the Blazers to their fifth consecutive defeat to the
Mavericks.

Dallas finished the third quarter with six unanswered points to
narrow Portland's lead to 67-66.

The Mavericks continued their recent trend of slow starts,
trailing 22-13 after the first quarter, earning boos from a usually
supportive crowd. Dallas had its lowest scoring first quarter of
the season, and the Mavericks were behind entering the second
quarter for the 10th time in their last 11 games.

Game notes
Nowitzki was scoreless in the first quarter for the third
time this season. He had only four points at halftime, going
2-for-8 from the field. ... Mavericks C Shawn Bradley sustained a
bloody upper lip in the first quarter and went to the locker room
for medical attention. He returned to the game late in the second
quarter. ... Pritchard is 1-7 since taking over for Maurice Cheeks.
... Dallas played the 2,000th regular-season game in its history.