MINNEAPOLIS – Josh Howard has the come-back-from-injury thing down cold.
Howard had 14 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes in his return from an 11-game absence, Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and 12 boards, and Dallas beat Minnesota 108-88 on Tuesday night.
Howard had not played since March 5 because of a sore left ankle. He has missed a total of 28 games due to various injuries this season, and each time he has returned without missing a beat.
“The two or three times when he’s come back from injury situations this year, it just has a real positive spiritual effect on our team,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our guys get juiced up. He gave us a lift tonight.”
Jason Terry scored 21 points for the Mavericks, who shrugged off a blowout loss at Cleveland and moved four games ahead of the Phoenix Suns for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Kevin Love had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played their second straight game without Randy Foye and Craig Smith.
Cavaliers 79, Pistons 73: In Cleveland, LeBron James made two crucial three-point plays down the stretch and finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their 13th straight game. With the win, Cleveland improved to 36-1 at home and became just the sixth team in NBA history to win 16 games in one month.
Bobcats 94, Lakers 84: In Charlotte, N.C., Gerald Wallace had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Charlotte completed a season sweep of the Western Conference leaders, who have lost six of seven to Charlotte. L.A.’s Kobe Bryant scored 25 points, but hit just 11 of 28 shots.
Hornets 111, Kings 110: Rasual Butler hit a 3-pointer as time expired to cap a dramatic final minute. David West matched his career high with 40 points as New Orleans barely held off the Kings, who thought they had it won when Beno Udrih hit a fallaway jumper with 1.7 seconds left.
Nuggets 111, Knicks 104: In Denver, Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points and Denver clinched a playoff spot by holding on to beat New York.
The Nuggets’ win, coupled with San Antonio’s loss to Oklahoma City, moved Denver into the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.
Thunder 96, Spurs 95: In San Antonio, Kevin Durant scored 31 points and Oklahoma City beat the Spurs for the second time this month. San Antonio clinched a playoff berth despite the loss.
76ers 98, Hawks 85: In Philadelphia, ex-UA Wildcat Andre Iguodala scored 19 points, and Philadelphia overcame a season-high 33 points from Atlanta’s Josh Smith.
Pacers 107, Bulls 105: In Indianapolis, T.J. Ford hit the go-ahead jumper with 3.9 seconds left, and Indiana won to tighten the race for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Trail Blazers 125, Jazz 104: In Portland, Ore., LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points, and Brandon Roy had 25 points and 11 assists to lead Portland.