DALLAS -- With 10 straight missed shots, the Dallas Mavericks nearly missed their chance for a 10th straight win.
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."
|Dallas' Josh Howard raises his game in the final ticks with a key shot and two free throws. (Getty Images)|
|Dallas (10-4) «||33||18||25||17||93|
|MIN:K. Garnett 19 Pts
MIN:K. Garnett 12 Reb
MIN:K. Garnett 3 Ast
|DAL:D. Nowitzki 15 Pts
DAL:E. Dampier 11 Reb
DAL:D. Harris 4 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|K. Garnett, PF||38||7-18||5-8||12||3||3||19|
|M. Blount, C||37||8-14||1-2||7||1||3||18|
|R. Davis, SG||33||5-11||0-0||2||2||3||10|
|T. Hassell, SF||24||2-5||0-0||1||3||0||4|
|M. James, PG||23||4-5||1-1||0||2||2||10|
|R. Foye, PG||27||7-14||3-5||4||1||2||17|
|M. Jaric, PG||24||3-6||0-0||0||2||4||6|
|C. Smith, PF||21||1-3||1-3||6||1||2||3|
|T. Hudson, PG||14||0-2||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|M. Madsen, C||Did Not Play|
|B. Wright, SG||Did Not Play|
|E. Griffin, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Reed, SF||Did Not Play|
|R. McCants, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|D. Nowitzki, PF||37||2-8||11-11||5||3||1||15|
|J. Howard, SF||34||5-13||4-4||8||3||3||15|
|J. Terry, PG||32||5-12||1-2||2||3||3||12|
|E. Dampier, C||30||6-8||0-0||11||1||4||12|
|D. Harris, PG||26||5-7||1-2||1||4||4||11|
|J. Stackhouse, SG||26||6-11||2-2||1||1||1||14|
|A. Johnson, PG||18||2-6||1-2||2||1||1||5|
|D. Diop, C||18||0-1||2-2||7||1||2||2|
|A. Croshere, PF||11||1-2||0-0||2||0||2||3|
|G. Buckner, SG||8||2-4||0-0||1||0||0||4|
|D. George, SF||Did Not Play|
|D. Mbenga, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Ager, SG||Did Not Play|
|P. Mensah-Bonsu, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Barea, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|