Sunday, January 27, 2008

Two All-Stars better than one

The last time the Mavericks faced Denver, they changed their approach to the season. No such revolution was needed this time.

Following the lead of Dirk Nowitzki late and Josh Howard early, the Mavs scored a solid 90-85 victory over the Nuggets before 20,437 fans at a sold-out American Airlines Center. The Mavs (30-13) won their third in a row, and seventh straight at home, before embarking on a season-long four-game road trip.

When the Nuggets routed Dallas back in the first week of December, Avery Johnson decided to break to season down into five-game segments to promote better focus. The Mavs dropped to 12-8 at the time. They’re 18-5 since.

The Nuggets (26-17) were without an injured All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony, which put an added scoring burden on fellow Western Conference starter Allen Iverson. Focusing on one dynamic scorer instead of two certainly had its advantages.

The 34 points Denver scored in the first half tied a season low for Mavs’ opponent. (Cleveland was held to the same on opening night.) Shadowed most of the night by bigger defenders, such as Eddie Jones, Josh Howard and Trenton Hassell, Iverson was held to a manageable 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting.

The Mavs had their full complement 20-point scorers in Nowitzki and Howard, and they were too much for Denver to handle. All-Star teammates last year, the two forwards combined for 52 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists.

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