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Wolves almost complete 20-point comeback but fall short

DALLAS (AP) -- With 10 straight missed shots, the Dallas
Mavericks nearly missed their chance for a 10th straight win.

Then Josh Howard ended the skid with a floater. Soon after,
Erick Dampier came up with a huge block.

Just like that, the Mavs were able to hold off the Minnesota
Timberwolves 93-87 Monday night, continuing their tremendous
turnaround from an 0-4 start by matching the fourth-longest winning
streak in team history.

"We still have a lot of work to do, no matter what the record
is and no matter who our opponent is," Dallas coach Avery Johnson
said after his team nearly blew a 20-point lead.

The Mavericks led 82-67 with 7:48 left and seemed poised for
another easy win, a hallmark of this streak. But the Timberwolves
went into a zone defense and Dallas couldn't crack it, settling for
long jumpers that kept finding different spots on the wrong part of
the rim.

Randy Foye scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter,
many during a 12-0 spurt that ended with Mark Blount's basket that
tied it at 84 with 2:34 left. The rest of the game, Minnesota only
got a 3-pointer by Blount with 23 seconds left, not enough to keep
alive a three-game winning streak.

"We competed," said Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey, whose club
overcame a 12-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to
win their previous game. "We were consistently trying to get to
the basket in the second half. We had three good looks after it was
tied, but we couldn't put a shot down. ... We gave ourselves a
chance to win. But we're not satisfied with being close."

Howard and Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 15 points, but it was
an off night for the German. He was only 2-of-8 from the field and
the points were easily his season low.

Instead, the Mavericks patched the points together through a
balanced attack, with six players contributing at least 11 points.
Jerry Stackhouse had 14 off the bench, while Dampier and Jason
Terry scored 12 and Devin Harris had 11.

Dampier also had 11 rebounds and two blocks -- both in the
closing minutes.

He got a piece of a potential go-ahead shot by Foye with 1:20
left, then clobbered Ricky Davis' shot with about 15 seconds left.
The ball went to Howard and he made a pair of free throws with 13.7
seconds remaining that put Dallas up by four, providing the
breathing room needed to hold onto the lead.

"I saw him driving the lane the whole night, getting those
floaters around the basket," Dampier said. "I just happened to be
in the right place at the right time. He tried to get it up off the
backboard, but I was able to get the block."

Kevin Garnett led Minnesota with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and
Blount had 18 points.

Mike James broke out of a scoreless, 0-for-9 slump over his last
two games with 10 points for the Timberwolves. He made four of five
shots in the first half, then didn't try another and didn't play
the fourth quarter.

Dallas scored 33 points in the first quarter, marking its third
straight game with at least that many in the opening period. The
Mavs also held the Timberwolves to only 40 points in the first
half.

"We could've easily beat them 15 or more," Dampier said.

Instead, they were tied until Howard's slump-busting, go-ahead
basket with 1:05 left. Stackhouse stretched the lead with a pair of
free throws, then the tension nearly boiled over with Howard and
Garnett exchanging shoves, drawing offsetting technicals.

"He came at me from behind and I pushed him back," Howard
said. "That was it."

Seconds later, Blount's 3 got Minnesota within 88-87. Then Terry
hit one of two foul shots and Dampier swatted Davis' shot.

"We got a little stagnant at the end and had some defensive
breakdowns," Harris said. "But we had enough to win at the end."
^Notes:@ The Mavs' longest winning streak is 14, set at the start of
the 2002-03 season. They had 13 in a row last season. ... The
Timberwolves came in as the league's best team from the foul line,
hitting 80.1 percent, but were only 5-of-13 in the first half and
11-of-19 for the game. ... James on his consecutive scoreless
outings: "I've never had a drought like this, not even in junior
high school basketball. ... I've got to get that Drano to figure
out this mental blockage." ... The game began under a heavy fog
because of pregame pyrotechnics that were a little too heavy on the
sulfur. ... Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo received a standing
ovation when shown on the big screen.