Howard scores 27 as Mavericks take care of Bucks

DALLAS -- Josh Howard remembered the terrible feeling he had walking off the court in Milwaukee five weeks ago.

He and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks were determined to avoid a repeat performance Wednesday night.

Howard scored 27 points, Jason Kidd added 19 and Dallas avenged its worst loss of the season by beating the Bucks 116-96.

On Jan. 21, the Bucks had 100 points by the end of the third quarter on the way to a 133-99 blowout win over the Mavericks.

"I remembered it," Howard said. "I had this game marked on my calendar. That was an embarrassment to the team."

The Mavericks, who bounced back after losing to a short-handed San Antonio team on Tuesday, closed the first half with an 18-2 run to lead by 24 at the break.

Thanks to a hot start from Charlie Villanueva, the Bucks jumped out to a 15-7 lead early on Wednesday. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle called a timeout and his team responded by scoring the next 16 points.

"We were trying to regroup in that situation," said Howard, who was two points shy of his season-high. "We were reminded about what we went through in Milwaukee and [Tuesday] in San Antonio."

Brandon Bass came off the bench to score 18 points and grab 11 rebounds for the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki and Antoine Wright each added 14 as Dallas put six scorers in double figures.

Villanueva, who scored 19 in the first quarter, finished with 25 points. Charlie Bell added 19 points and Richard Jefferson had 16.

After shooting 34 percent in their loss to the Spurs, the Mavericks hit 53 percent (39-for-73) from the floor and outrebounded the Bucks 51-25.

Coach Scott Skiles, who said before the game his team's defense has slipped in recent weeks, was critical of Milwaukee's play.

"I felt like we were incredibly soft, except for maybe the first three minutes of the game," Skiles said. "They deserved to win. They played harder and better than us."

It was a far cry from the game last month in Wisconsin, where the Bucks scored 111 points over the final three quarters.

Milwaukee was within 47-39 after Bell hit a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter.

Kidd hit a pair of 3s to stretch the Mavericks' lead to 57-41, and Wright closed the first half with a pair of free throws that gave the Mavericks a 65-41 cushion.

Dallas hit its final seven shots of the opening half.

The Mavericks scored a season-low 76 points against the Spurs. They surpassed that total midway through the third quarter.

"It was disappointing because we didn't feel we gave the effort," said Kidd, who also pitched in nine assists. "We let an opportunity slip away, but we bounced back. This is what we've done all year."

The Bucks crept to 94-83 with 8:35 remaining on Bell's 3-pointer, but that was as close as they got. Kidd drove for a pair of layups to key a 14-0 spurt that put Dallas up by 25.

Both teams came into the game jockeying for one of the final playoff spots in their respective conferences.

Milwaukee is eighth in the East and has a one-game edge over Chicago and New Jersey.

Dallas is eighth in the West, 1 games ahead of Phoenix. This was the first in a stretch of four straight games against teams under .500 for the Mavericks.

Villanueva, who scored Milwaukee's first 11 points, was 8-for-11 from the floor in the first quarter and accounted for all his team's field goals. The other Bucks combined to go 0-for-13.

"I was making my shots early, trying to be aggressive," Villanueva said. "But it was not enough. I think it's very difficult to win the game if you let a team shoot over 50 percent and get outrebounded the way we did."

Game notes
There were four technical fouls called in the first quarter. Wright, Howard and Carlisle were whistled for Dallas, and Skiles got one for the Bucks. ... The Bucks are 5-2 against the Southwest Division.