10/16/2007 Mavericks @ Sacramento

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. – There was nothing exhibition about the Mavericks and Sacramento hooking up Tuesday night on the campus of New Mexico State.

Mavs forward Josh Howard was ejected in the second quarter of Dallas’ 101-99 victory, while Dirk Nowitzki picked up a flagrant foul in the fourth. There was a definite regular-season feel in intensity as the game built to Jason Terry’s game-winning crescendo.

“This was pretty hectic for a preseason game,” Nowitzki said. “We played all the way to the end and it came down to the last possession. That was actually the hardest preseason game I’ve ever played.”

With the lead seesawing down the stretch, the court was covered with NBA regulars. Among the Mavs on the court during crunch time were Nowitzki, Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris. The Kings had Mike Bibby, Ron Artest, Brad Miller and Kevin Martin out there.

Nowitzki made several key plays on both ends in the final minutes, including blocking a reverse slam try by Artest. Two free throws from Nowitzki put the Mavs (2-2) up 98-97 with less than 30 seconds left.

Kings swingman John Salmons answered with a pair from the line with 11.1 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Terry knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing with four seconds left. Out of timeouts, the Kings never got the ball past midcourt.

Terry’s final dagger is also a snapshot Harris’ continual growth at point guard. The play was drawn up for Harris to attack the basket, but he was doubled. So he swung the ball to Trenton Hassell who moved it to a wide-open Terry.

“He made a great find in getting that ball across the court and Trenton got the ball to the scorer,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “With Jet, we’ve seen that before. Jet’s a big-time shooter.”

Terry added: “I still got it.”

Terry finished with 15 points off the bench. Nowitzki led with a line – 23 points and 13 rebounds in 37 ½ minutes – straight out of the regular season. Stackhouse had 17 points in his strongest preseason showing and Harris finished with 11.

“It felt like a tough regular-season showdown,” Terry said. “We fought through some adversity with some foul trouble, losing Josh, but we weathered the storm and executed the way we had to down the stretch.”

As for Howard’s ejection, the altercation resulted from Miller shoving Harris in the second quarter in what seemed at first to be a case of mistaken identity. Miller and Mavs rookie Nick Fazekas got tangled up under the Kings basket, but as Dallas was pushing the ball up the court, Miller turned and knocked Harris down.

Miller admitted after the game he knew it wasn’t Harris on his back. He just wanted to stop the game to get the officials’ attention. Harris jumped up quickly and confronted Miller, leading to the stoppage of play with 7:01 left in the period. Howard ran down the court and struck Miller high with his forearm.

“It’s emotion,” Howard said. “I saw what he did to Devin. I came to the aid of my teammate. I’m going to leave it alone. The NBA is going to have to deal with it.”

Howard could face additional punishment from the league office, but his ejection doesn’t lead to an automatic suspension. Johnson doesn’t believe a suspension is warranted. Howard’s teammates are hoping for the best.

“You protect your teammates,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously Josh is heated. We all know that, so we’ll see what the league says about it. Hopefully this preseason game doesn’t come around to hurt us for the regular season.”

Howard was ejected on the Flagrant Foul 2. Miller received a Flagrant 1 and stayed in the game. Kings forward Kenny Thomas was hit with a technical.

Before he left the court, Harris patted Howard on the chest in a show of support. A smiling Howard threw his wristbands into the crowd while being escorted to the locker room.

For his part, Miller may be hearing from NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson.

“I don’t know what happened,” Harris said. “He turned and pushed me to the floor. You can’t have that.”

Officials are required to do video reviews on plays involving several triggers, including Flagrant 2 fouls and player altercations. However, officials didn’t have their review equipment in place since the game was played at a college arena.

They were only able to huddle up and decide punishment. The game was televised by the Kings and the incident was shown repeatedly courtside, but the officials never saw a replay.

That wasn’t the end of the rough stuff. With 8 ½ minutes left in the game, Nowitzki was whistled for a Flagrant 1 against Kings forward Francisco Garcia, who was driving to the basket on the break. Nowitzki went for the block and knocked the ball out of Garcia’s hand. On the follow-through, Nowitzki’s elbow hit Garcia’s head.

Nowitzki and Johnson vehemently disputed the call made by official Rodney Mott, since Nowitzki made a play on the ball. Nowitzki approached Mott and pleaded: “Explain it to me.”

“He said I was winding up,” Nowitzki said. “I said I was trying to go for the block and I hit the ball, but he said the windup was too much. It’s preseason for [the officials] and they don’t have a way to practice. This is their warm-up, too. We’re all trying to get ready for the regular season.”