Mavericks 102, Suns 101

Josh Howard looked sharp coming off a 13-game break to

rehabilitate his surgically repaired left ankle, scoring 18 of his

20 points in the second half and leading the Dallas Mavericks to a

102-101 victory over the reeling Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

Howard missed the first five games of the season recovering from

the surgery, then lasted just 2 1/2 games. The Mavs put him through

some grueling workouts to make sure he’s all the way back, and he

sure looked it by scoring 16 points during a stretch late in the

third quarter and early in the fourth when Dallas went from being

tied at 66 to leading 88-79.

Phoenix made three 3-pointers in the final 47.9 seconds to make

things interesting all the way to the buzzer, but the Suns wound up

losing for the fourth time in five games. All those losses are on

the road, and they’ve all come during the first eight days of

December. Phoenix lost only three times over the last week of

October and all of November.

Dirk Nowitzki had 33 points and eight rebounds, and Shawn Marion

had 10 points and seven rebounds in his first game against his

longtime team since rejoining the Western Conference. The Mavericks

also ended their first two-game losing streak of the season.

Steve Nash scored eight of his 27 points in the final minute and

had eight assists. Jason Richardson scored 25, including a long 3

during the final push. Amare Stoudemire had 20 points and Jared

Dudley 11.

Jason Terry had 15 points and kept the drama to the buzzer by

missing a free throw with 3.7 seconds left. He intentionally missed

the next one. Stoudemire got the rebound, took a few dribbles then

heaved it about 75 feet. It was pretty much on line but short.

J.J. Barea, who had what likely will become Howard’s spot in the

starting lineup, scored 14. Jason Kidd had 11 assists and seven

points.

Howard entered to a nice ovation with 5:07 left in the first

quarter. He missed a jumper on a fast break, but before fans could

wonder whether he pulled up because he was tentative about the

ankle, he proved otherwise by hustling back on defense and blocking

a shot by Grant Hill. He soon after went to the rim on a fast break

and was knocked down but got right up.

Howard was 0 for 2 with two points in the first half. Dallas

didn’t have much going right outside Nowitzki the first two-plus

quarters, yet managed to remain close.

When Howard came in midway through the third quarter, he put up

a brick from the outside, then passed up a shot on a fast break and

dished to Kris Humphries; he wasn’t expecting the pass and the ball

rolled out of bounds.

But then Howard finished a fast break on his own and everything

seemed to click for him. He made a steal and turned it into a jump,

and soon after hit a 3-pointer. Early in the fourth, he made a 3, a

jumper, a shot from the baseline and another jumper just before the

shot clock expired.

NOTES: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said Howard will not have a

limit on his minutes. … Phoenix’s Lou Amundson returned after

missing two games with the flu. Leandro Barbosa missed his fourth

game because of a sprained left ankle. … Mavs owner Mark Cuban

was sporting a colorful, baseball-sized bruise on the inside of his

left forearm, courtesy of his participation in a WWE event at the

arena Monday night. Would he let any of his players in the ring?

“I complain about the Olympics, so I’m not going to let them do

WWE,” he said. … A couple celebrating their 75th wedding

anniversary – each wearing No. 75 Mavs jerseys – were featured on

the “kiss cam” during a timeout. They smooched twice to loud

cheers.