In its 106-97 loss to the Wizards on Monday, Dallas played lethargically until late in the game and at one point trailed by 31 points before rallying in the fourth quarter.
Coach Avery Johnson detected a somber mood on the trip north.
"We were really embarrassed," he said. "The plane was quiet, the bus was quiet. Usually some guys are playing games, but there were no games being played. That's a good sign. We don't take losing well."
The Mavericks never trailed against the Nets, built a 17-point lead in the third quarter and held off a New Jersey rally early in the fourth. Howard attributed the fast start to the way the Mavericks ended Monday's game.
"We did an excellent job in the fourth quarter and it carried over to tonight," he said. "We knew what we needed to do."
Howard has developed into the perfect complement to Nowitzki, and the fourth-year swingman had led or co-led Dallas in scoring in three of the last four games. On Tuesday, he and Nowitzki scored all of the Mavericks' points in a 13-4 run midway through the fourth quarter that gave them an 88-71 lead with 3:10 left.
With Nowitzki scoring a quiet 10 points in the first half, Howard picked up the slack with 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
"He has the ability to contribute when he's not scoring, and he's keeping the right level of concentration for longer stretches," Johnson said of Howard.
Vince Carter scored 20 points for New Jersey, which has lost seven of its last nine games but is still tied with Toronto atop the Atlantic Division at 7-10. Even with the league's hottest team in town, the Nets couldn't match the Mavericks' energy on either end of the floor.
"It just seemed like Dallas had a great sense of urgency and we weren't able to meet it," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We just didn't seem, for whatever reason, to have a great deal of pep in our step."
The only Net who injected any life into the game was reserve center Mikki Moore, who scored eight points when the Nets closed a 17-point gap to five late in the third quarter.
"We have to keep our heads up," Carter said. "We were able to pick it up but we waited until too late. We didn't lay down. We still continued to play to win. If we continue to do that, we can win a lot of ballgames that way."
- The loss dropped New Jersey to 1-12 in its last 13 games against Dallas.
- Dallas G Maurice Ager sat out with a sprained right ankle.
- The Nets threatened to match their season-low point total for the first half before winding up with 35 points, six of which were scored in the final 1:03. They managed 26 in the first half of an 86-68 loss against Portland on Nov. 18.
- Arena security ejected a fan seated at the baseline near the Nets' bench in the second half for yelling profanities at referee Joey Crawford.