12/09/2006 Mavericks vs.Denver

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Dallas 105, Denver 90 DALLAS, Dec. 9 (AP) -- Josh Howard was just as proud of his matching his career-high scoring total as he was of his defense against NBA leading-scorer Carmelo Anthony.

Howard scored 30 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 25 and Jason Terry had 14 of his 24 in the first quarter to help the Mavericks build early leads of as many as 18 points in Dallas' 105-90 victory over the weary Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Anthony started the night with a scoring average of 31.7 points per game, but finished with 18 on 8-for-26 shooting.

"It was a great team effort, said Howard, who took turns with teammates Devean George and Greg Buckner guarding the explosive Anthony, who had fewer than 20 points for only the second time this season. "We kept giving him different looks, coming at him from different angles.

J.R. Smith also scored 18 points for the Nuggets, who had won eight of their last 10 games.

The Nuggets were on the second leg of a tough back-to-back in less than 24 hours against the teams that played in the NBA finals last season, and they set a season low for points.

Denver beat defending NBA champion Miami 123-107 at home Friday night, then traveled to Texas after the game to take on the runner-up Mavericks.

"Anytime you play two teams like Miami and Dallas back-to-back, it's going to be trouble, Anthony said. "We knew it was going to be a test.

Anthony credited the Mavericks' defense for his cold-shooting night.

"The shots I normally make I didn't make, Anthony said.

At times, the Mavericks double- and triple-teamed Anthony when he had the ball.

"That led to frustration and like they do with all great players, they brought over a second and a third man, Denver coach George Karl said.

Dallas, which was off on Friday night, had fresher legs as the Mavericks scored 41 points in the opening quarter for their highest first-quarter output this season.

``We came out with pretty good energy, Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "We wanted to be pretty aggressive.

The Mavericks converted 13 of their first 15 field goal attempts and used a 16-2 run to blow the game open, building a 41-25 lead entering the second quarter. Dallas, loser of two of its previous three games after a 12-game winning streak, carried a 62-41 halftime lead behind Howard's 20 points.

"We didn't pass the ball, we forced way too many shots, Karl said. "Instead of staying away from the crowd, we threw the ball into the crowd.

After three quarters, the Mavericks were still comfortably in front, 83-70, and the Nuggets never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.

Defense was the key, Johnson said.

"(Denver) is a team capable of scoring 150 points and they come in here and score 90, Johnson said. ``(Anthony) has been having an All-Star season. I don't think he'll go 8-for-26 from the field again.

The Mavericks were without Jerry Stackhouse (groin) and Austin Croshere (hamstring). Missing for the Nuggets were Joe Smith (ankle) and Reggie Evans (strep throat).

Notes: The Nuggets didn't get into their Dallas hotel rooms until 4 a.m. on Saturday after playing a late game in Denver on Friday night. ... Karl admitted that his team considered a trade for Philadelphia G Allen Iverson over the summer, but Karl said trading for Iverson now would be unlikely. "I'm not going to deny we were interested, but we're happy with our team now, Karl said. "He's a great player. I'm sad but that's the world of sports today where a team has to trade the player who built them because they have to get rid of the biggest contract. I hope he ends up with a team that jump-starts his career. ... The Nuggets have lost 17 of their last 18 games in Dallas. ... New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was the guest of Mavericks coach Avery Johnson. The Saints face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night and Johnson, a New Orleans native, is a Saints fan.