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Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009

Howard lifts Mavs over Suns in return

DALLAS (AP) Josh Howard carefully peeled the wrapper off a bandage, then gently applied it to his surgically repaired left ankle. He rubbed on some cream, pulled up a sock and then, before putting on his shoe, slipped on a brace, too.

"It's going to be sore, guys, it's going to be sore the rest of the year," he said.

At least this time the soreness came with a smile. Howard was back in action after missing 13 games, and was back to his old tricks on both ends of the court, scoring 20 points and flying around for rebounds, steals and blocks while helping lift the Dallas Mavericks to a 102-101 victory over the struggling Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

"I'm surprised he played so well for his first game back," Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire said. "He took his time, got healthy and it showed."

The ankle bothered Howard all last season no matter how much therapy he did, so he had it cleaned up over the summer. He missed the first five games of the season recovering, then lasted just 2 1/2 before having to be shut down again. Following a nearly monthlong layoff, he didn't start Tuesday night and coach Rick Carlisle wasn't sure how long he'd use Howard or how good he would be.

He looked pretty rusty when he came in midway through the first quarter and he finished the first half with just a pair of free throws, having missed both shots he took. Then he opened the second half with a jumper that rammed against the backboard, followed by a pass to a teammate who wasn't expecting it, sending the ball rolling out of bounds.

Then, it all turned around.

Howard scored 16 points during a stretch late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, taking Dallas from being tied at 66 to leading 88-79. He had the last nine points in that surge, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner, a pair of free throws, a 14-footer on the baseline and an 18-footer that swished through as the shot clock expired.

He finished 6-of-13, and 6-of-6 from the line, with six rebounds, three steals, a block and an assist in 26 minutes.

"We hit a spell there where he was the only offense we had going," Carlisle said. "He really kept us afloat. It shows you how important he is to our team and he just showed a lot of guts tonight, too. Because he was tired and you could tell he was a little sore."

Dirk Nowitzki scored 33 points and was pretty much keeping the Mavericks in this game by himself until Howard got rolling.

"Once he gets a good rhythm going, we'll be a really tough team to beat," Nowitzki said.

Grizzlies 111, Cavaliers 109

In Memphis, Mike Conley drove past Shaquille O'Neal for a layup in the final 3 seconds to give the Grizzlies an overtime victory.

LeBron James, who had 43 points and 13 rebounds, took the last shot, but his 30-footer over Rudy Gay hit the front of the rim, snapping the Cavaliers' 4-game winning streak.

Magic 97, Clippers 86

In Los Angeles, Dwight Howard had 25 points and 11 rebounds on his 24th birthday, Rashard Lewis added 17 points and Orlando won its sixth straight.

Jason Williams scored 16 points while hitting four 3-pointers for the Magic, who won their 11th in 12 games. Orlando also won its eighth straight road game, setting a new franchise record for a single season.

Eric Gordon scored 21 points and Baron Davis had 18 points and 11 assists for the Clippers.

Nets 103, Bulls 101

In Chicago, Brook Lopez scored 25 points, Devin Harris hit the go-ahead basket with 14.9 seconds left and New Jersey got its second win of the season and first on the road.

Chris Douglas-Roberts added 20 points and Harris had 17 for the Nets, who got off the worst start in NBA history at 0-18 and are now 2-19 — including 1-12 away from home.

Derrick Rose scored 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter for Chicago.

Hornets 96, Kings 94

In New Orleans, David West had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Chris Paul had 15 points and 12 assists.

Celtics 98, Bucks 89

In Boston, Rajon Rondo had 13 assists and nine rebounds, and scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled away to beat Milwaukee.

Bobcats 107, Nuggets 95

In Charlotte, Gerald Wallace had 25 points and 16 rebounds as the Bobcats snapped Denver's four-game winning streak.

Raptors 94, Timberwolves 88

In Toronto, Chris Bosh had 21 points and 16 rebounds, and Jarrett Jack had 17 points and eight assists for the Raptors.

Al Jefferson had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves.

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