Howard bounces back, leads Mavs to 13th straight victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Dallas Mavericks established a franchise
record for fewest points allowed. They also, for the first time in
history, finished a month without being beaten.

It's only February, however, and they're not interested in

Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and 14 rebounds and Josh Howard
rebounded from a sprained ankle suffered the night before to lead
the Mavericks to their 13th straight victory on Tuesday night,
91-65 over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Nobody's in here jumping up and down," said Jason Terry, who
had 18 points and seven assists.

Howard added 17 points, and Dallas raised its league-best record
to 48-9.

That wasn't all, though.

The Mavericks, who improved to 11-0 on the second night of
back-to-back games, went 10-0 in February. The 65 points managed by
Minnesota was an all-time low for Dallas, breaking the previous
mark of 68 for a team that was not too long ago derided as
"Allas" -- as in no "D."

Coach Avery Johnson, in less than two years, has helped
transform the Mavericks into a well-rounded bunch. They held Kevin
Garnett and the lethargic Timberwolves to a franchise-worst 29.6
field-goal percentage on 24-for-81 shooting.

Some of that stemmed from Minnesota's struggles, but Dallas is
clearly a difficult club to play against at any spot on the floor.
It has become just as difficult, however, to get the Mavericks to
acknowledge their near-invincibility.

"I can already count in my head about eight mistakes I had
individually," Terry said.

Garnett counted six mistakes by the Wolves on their first six
possessions -- one blocked shot and five turnovers. They never had a
lead in this one.

"We don't have the experience nor the personnel to sort of get
us in positions to climb ourselves out," said Garnett, who had 15
points and 13 rebounds. "We sometimes hang our hats on our
youthfulness, and sometimes that's a disadvantage."

Ricky Davis scored 15 points, and Mark Blount added 10 points
for Minnesota, which matched a season low with an eight-point
second quarter and trailed 42-27 at the half.

Howard, who got hurt against the Hawks when he landed on the
foot of Atlanta's Joe Johnson while following through on a jump
shot, had 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting before halftime. The
decision to play Howard wasn't made until shortly before tipoff,
but it probably didn't matter if he suited up or not.

Minnesota has lost 15 of its last 21 games. The chemistry and
consistent effort that coach Randy Wittman, who took over for the
fired Dwane Casey on Jan. 23, has searched for has not emerged.

Randy Foye offered one of the hard-to-come-by highlights when he
blocked Jerry Stackhouse's shot at the top of the key, started a
fast break and swished a tricky reverse layup from underneath the
basket that went almost straight up in the air.

He was fouled by Stackhouse, and Foye's free throw cut the lead
to 46-37 early in the third quarter. Just 23 seconds later, though,
Terry swished a 26-footer to put Dallas back up by double digits.

The crowd, announced at 13,326, was as quiet as ever despite the
high-profile opponent. Late in the fourth quarter, one fan sitting
in the pricey seats near midcourt screamed, "Can you at least get
five guys out there who pretend like they want to win!?"

The Wolves haven't played like it very much over the past month.

"I don't think it's about our shooting. I think it's about
pride, and that we don't have right now," said Marko Jaric, who
went scoreless in 10 minutes. "We need to find it.

Game notes
Dallas was without defensive standout Greg Buckner for the
second straight game because of a bruised left knee he sustained
Saturday against Denver. Johnson said swingman Devean George, a
native of Minneapolis, was getting close to returning from a
sprained right knee. He's missed the last five games, but he might
practice this week. ... Rashad McCants had four points in 18
minutes for Minnesota. Progress in his comeback from microfracture
surgery on his right knee has been predictably slow. "This is an
injury that we knew was going to take some time," Wittman said.