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Nowitzki, Mavs finally awaken to stop the Nets

Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 and Josh Howard added 23 to lead Dallas past New Jersey 92-75 Tuesday night.

A night after having its 12-game winning streak end at Washington, Dallas led from the game's first basket and pulled away in the fourth quarter. Howard and Nowitzki led the surge, scoring all of Dallas' points in a 13-4 run that gave the Mavericks an 88-71 lead with 3:10 left.

Vince Carter scored 20 for New Jersey, which lost for the seventh time in nine games.

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. Against the Nets, the Mavs started strong and built a 17-point lead in the third quarter.

Nowitzki had a quiet first half with four points until the final four minutes of the second quarter, and he finished the half with 10. Howard picked up the slack with 15 points.

Blazers 88, Pistons 85

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Zach Randolph's short jumper put Portland ahead with 21.6 seconds to go, and Portland beat Detroit to stop a five-game skid.

Randolph finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds, less than a year after scoring a career-best 37 in the same building. Richard Hamilton had 25 for Detroit, which lost its second straight after an eight-game winning streak.

Juan Dixon's jumper broke a tie at 80 with 2:13 left, and after Chauncey Billups made a technical-foul free throw, Jarrett Jack hit two from the line to give the Blazers an 84-81 lead.

Rasheed Wallace's layup made it a one-point game, and Dixon missed a long jumper before Billups gave the Pistons the lead with a 22-footer. Randolph answered with a driving jumper over Tayshaun Prince, putting Portland ahead 86-85.

Hamilton missed twice at the other end and Jack increased the margin to three with a pair of free throws with 2 seconds to play. Hamilton shot an airball at the buzzer.

Rockets 118, Warriors 90

HOUSTON - Tracy McGrady had 31 points and seven assists and Yao Ming added 27 points for Houston.

The Rockets shot 54 percent (45-for-84) against the NBA's worst defense and won for the sixth time in seven games.

McGrady showed no effects from the concussion he suffered after taking an elbow from Dikembe Mutombo in Saturday's win over Cleveland. McGrady hit 13 of 25 shots and had three steals.

Around the league

NEW BALL: Commissioner David Stern acknowledged that the NBA should have sought more input from players before introducing its new game ball. "It's an improvement in many ways," Stern told the New York Times. "But if our players are unhappy with it, we have to analyze to the nth degree the cause of their unhappiness." Stern said he will address the players' criticisms with Spalding, the ball manufacturer.

BOBCATS: Guard Matt Carroll missed practice with a sprained right elbow and will probably be sidelined for today's game against San Antonio. Carroll was injured late in the first half of Sunday against Detroit.

GRIZZLIES SALE: NBA officials are not considering a sale of the team because the proposed buyers have not provided enough information on where the money would come from. Former NBA player Brian Davis leads an investment group that wants to buy a majority stake, but he has declined to name the investors or discuss financing.

HORNETS: Starting guard Bobby Jackson has a cracked left rib and will be out for about two weeks.

LAKERS: Kobe Bryant's sprained right ankle has improved, and he might play tonight against the Hornets.