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Nowitzki Leads Mavericks Past Knicks

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Isiah Thomas began and ended his night the same way: defending his conduct.

If only his New York Knicks did a little more defending against Dirk Nowitzki.

Nowitzki scored a season-high 36 points, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 99-89 victory over New York on Monday night.

But as usual with the Knicks, basketball was only part of the story.

Thomas opened his pregame news conference by reaffirming his innocence in a sexual harassment trial he and Madison Square Garden already lost, and after the game he danced around questions about whether he scolded fans near his bench for not being supportive.

Thomas wouldn't directly answer if he had interacted with any fans.

``I was just trying to make sure that we kept the team together and we stayed focused on what we were doing and trying to win a basketball game,'' he said. ``Our fans are great, they support us and they show up and we're glad they're here.''

Asked a second time, he responded: ``Again, I just want to make sure that our team stays focused. The fans are great, we love them and we're glad they're here and they give us a lot of support.''

In other NBA games on Monday, it was: Atlanta 98, Orlando 87; Philadelphia 100, Houston 88; Miami 117, Phoenix 113; and Sacramento 96, Milwaukee 93.

The Mavericks let a 23-point lead slip to seven, and coach Avery Johnson was clearly angry during his profane postgame remarks.

``We had a big enough lead and we should have kept it,'' Johnson said. ``The last 2 minutes or 3 minutes of the third quarter was absolutely pathetic. The guys who were in there let the whole team down. We can't afford the team to do that.''

Though the fans cheered the Knicks during the comeback, Thomas and center Eddy Curry were the targets of boos most of the night. Mara Altschuler, a fan sitting near the Knicks' bench, said Thomas was talking to some fans during the game, blaming them for being a poor ``sixth man'' for the team.

``It's real hard. I ain't never been in a situation like that and I don't understand,'' Knicks forward Zach Randolph said. ``I guess they say it's New York fans, but you know it's real tough. Honestly. Especially for me, because I've never experienced every time a player walks off the court you're booing.

``Everywhere else, in Portland, fans were a big part of our team. Fans are a big part of every team everywhere you go. We need the fans to be supportive with us, even when we're down.''

Earlier Monday, MSG and Thomas reached an $11.5 million settlement in the sexual harassment case brought by former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders.

Thomas read a statement reaffirming his innocence, but supporting MSG's desire to settle. He wouldn't take any questions about the matter.

Thomas heard his normal boos, but the fans seemed to focus more of their anger toward Curry, who was 3-of-13 from the field and scored six points in another ineffective performance. The Knicks said Curry sustained a lacerated lower lip.

Josh Howard, who scored a career-high 47 points Saturday in a victory over Utah, added 22 to help the Mavericks beat the Knicks for the 11th time in 12 meetings. Reserve Jerry Stackhouse added 13 points for Dallas, which shot 54 percent from the field.

Randolph scored 24 points, all in the second half, and grabbed 11 rebounds, but the Knicks lost their third straight. Jamal Crawford had 19 points and Fred Jones 16.

Nowitzki was 14-of-23 from the field, throwing up an airball on his final attempt. But the Mavs were up 14 by then, safely on their way to a second straight victory following consecutive losses.

``I was fortunate I was able to find the rhythm very quick,'' Nowitzki said. ``The last couple of weeks, my jumper didn't feel great, didn't really have a lot of good looks. But from the beginning on I stayed aggressive, had some good looks. Pretty much I was on attack mode all night long.''

The Knicks were without starting point guard Stephon Marbury, still emotional after the death of his father. Marbury was ineffective trying to play in two games since, and the Knicks have said he can have as much time as he needs.

Hawks 98, Magic 87

Josh Smith had 25 points and a season-high 16 rebounds and Joe Johnson scored 24 points for Atlanta, which won its third straight.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 22 points and Dwight Howard had 14 points and 18 rebounds for the Magic, who lost consecutive games for the first time this season. Howard was 6-of-14 from the free-throw line.

76ers 100, Rockets 88

Andre Miller had 17 points and 12 assists and Andre Iguodala added 16 points for Philadelphia, which led by as many as 31 points on the way to its first three-game winning streak this season.

Bonzi Wells led Houston with 24 points. Tracy McGrady scored 12 points before leaving the game in the second half with a sprained right ankle.

Heat 117, Suns 113

Dwyane Wade scored 10 of his 31 points in the final 4 minutes for Miami, which won consecutive games for the first time this season. The Heat, playing their sixth road game in nine days, had double-digit leads in all four quarters to beat Phoenix for the first time in three seasons.

Grant Hill and Shawn Marion were among four players who had 19 points for the Suns, who lost their second straight game to a team with one of the NBA's worst records. The Suns were beaten at Minnesota on Saturday.

Kings 96, Bucks 93

John Salmons scored 22 points and Brad Miller had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Sacramento, which snapped a two-game losing streak.

Ron Artest's layup with 52 seconds left gave the Kings the lead for good, 95-93. Salmons made a free throw with 14 seconds to go for a three-point lead.

Michael Redd, who led the Bucks with 24 points, missed a 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds.
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