DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki is likely headed for his sixth
straight All-Star appearance, and this season he could have Dallas
Mavericks teammate Josh Howard along as a sidekick.
Howard scored 27 points and Nowitzki added 23 as the Mavericks
stretched their winning streak to seven games with a 97-84 victory
over the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night.
Howard, last week's Western Conference player of the week, went
10-for-19 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds. Dallas is 9-1
this season when Howard scores 20 or more points.
The Mavericks have put on a publicity blitz to get Howard
All-Star recognition, but if he continues to perform at the current
level, he won't need much help.
"No doubt he's an All-Star," teammate Greg Buckner said.
"He's doing everything, playing the best ball on our team. We know
Dirk's an All-Star. We'd like to have two. We think we're the best
team in the league."
Howard, averaging 20.8 points over the last 14 games, would like
to be in Las Vegas for the All-Star game on Feb. 18. If he isn't
chosen, he'll be happy for a few days off.
"That's a kid's dream always," Howard said. "If the fans and
coaches want me, I'll want to play. But I'm not going to cry if I
don't make it because there are a lot of good guys out there."
Howard credits better shot selection for much of his
"I was just out there taking the right shots," Howard said.
"I try to be in the right position. It's timing, it's decisions. I
know I can't chuck up everything. I've matured as a player."
Dallas seemed on the verge of a blowout, building a 57-45 lead
early in the third quarter. But Charlotte responded with an 8-0 run
to get within four with 5:55 left in the quarter.
Howard swung the momentum back to the Mavericks, scoring 11
points during the final 4:19 of the third quarter while Dallas was
on a 21-11 run for a 78-65 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"We lost our focus as a team the first few minutes of the third
quarter and we just went out and started playing better
basketball," Howard said.
Howard contributed a four-point play and a three-point play
during the late third-quarter flurry. On the three-point play,
Howard dunked after rebounding his own miss, bringing the sellout
crowd to its feet.
"He threw it up there and went after it with intensity,"
Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "He knew he could go get
it if he missed it. He's just a terrific player."
Nowitzki, Dallas' top scorer who's been slowed by a sprained
ankle over the past week, moved well enough to shoot 9-for-15 while
contributing seven rebounds.
The Mavericks improved to 21-7, the best record in the league
and a half-game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs (21-8) in the
Southwest Division. San Antonio lost 114-107 at home to Milwaukee
on Tuesday night.
Dallas coach Avery Johnson was concerned before the game with
the Bobcats, who were competitive against the Mavericks on Nov. 20
in Charlotte before Dallas used a late surge for a 93-85 victory.
Five of Charlotte's seven victories are against teams with
Charlotte missed 11 of its first 12 field goal attempts in the
second quarter as Dallas moved to a 49-41 halftime advantage.
Howard and Nowitzki each had 14 points in the first half.
The Bobcats got off 78 shots, the same number as the Mavericks.
But Charlotte made only 31, a shooting percentage of 41.
"Our problem is real simple," Bickerstaff said. "It's putting
the ball in the basket."
Howard received the first player of the week award of his
four-year career. He averaged 22.7 points during the three games
last week. ... A player other than Nowitzki has paced Dallas in
scoring six times during the current winning streak. ... Dallas F
Jerry Stackhouse missed his second straight game with a sprained
left ankle. Stackhouse is expected to be ready by the weekend. ...
Carroll started in the Charlotte backcourt in place of Derek
Anderson, who came off the bench. ...Dallas has held its last six
opponents to under 100 points. ...The Mavericks are 6-0 all-time
against the Bobcats.