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Nowitzki leads Mavs past Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS -- Avery Johnson has let Dirk Nowitzki loose. Nowitzki led Dallas in scoring for the ninth straight game, scoring 30 points, and the Mavericks handed the Minnesota Timberwolves their eighth consecutive loss with a 101-78 victory on Su...

MINNEAPOLIS -- Avery Johnson has let Dirk Nowitzki loose.

Nowitzki led Dallas in scoring for the ninth straight game, scoring 30 points, and the Mavericks handed the Minnesota Timberwolves their eighth consecutive loss with a 101-78 victory on Sunday.

Josh Howard added 22 points and eight rebounds for the Mavericks, who led by as many as 31 points en route to their fourth win in a row and ninth in their last 11.

Al Jefferson had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the lackluster Timberwolves, who delivered an uninspired performance despite not having won a game since Dec. 21 against Indiana.

The sweet-shooting Nowitzki topped 20 points just twice in his first seven games as Johnson and the rest of the Dallas coaching staff urged him to concentrate on other facets of his game.

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"Early in the season really work on his passing, that was a big point of emphasis," Johnson said before the game. "We saw enough of that. Now we said, 'Hey, think of making some stronger moves."'

The big German clearly has gotten the message.

He is averaging 26.2 points over the last nine, and he went at the overmatched Wolves in every way, shape and form on Sunday.

Nowitzki scored in the post, on the break and from the perimeter to set the tone early.

With Jerry Stackhouse (thumb) and Erick Dampier (knee) out with injuries, it was up to Nowitzki, Howard and Jason Terry to handle the scoring, and they shot the lights out -- literally.

During a timeout with 2:23 to go in the third period, after Howard made an uncontested layup to finish a 10-2 run, the Target Center went dark for a few moments.

In reality, the lights went out on the Timberwolves quite a while ago.

They are off to the worst start in franchise history (4-29) and a turnaround is nowhere in sight.

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The Mavericks shot 58 percent in the first quarter to jump out to a 15-point lead. Minnesota cut the lead to nine early in the second period before Dallas responded in resounding fashion.

With Nowitzki on the bench, the Mavs hit three straight 3-pointers, two by Eddie Jones and one by Terry, to start a 13-0 run. Nowitzki's feather-soft jumper capped it to give them a 46-24 lead midway through the period, and the Mavs were off and running.

As each jumper fell, the young Wolves lost more spirit.

Effort rarely has been a problem with this group through what has already been a trying season. But as the first half closed, the Timberwolves were getting beaten to every loose ball and outworked on the offensive glass, a troubling sign for a team that relies on hard work and energy to stay in games.

After playing just six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Wolves guard Rashad McCants finished with 21 points, nearly all of which came in garbage time.

NOTES: Marko Jaric had 14 points for Minnesota. ... Howard topped 20 points for the first time since Dec. 19, a span of seven games. ... Johnson said Stackhouse and Dampier would be re-evaluated on Monday.

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