Dirk's 36 lifts Mavs over Knicks

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Avery Johnson was mad at the Mavericks. The Knicks were disappointed in their fans.

Seems plenty of people are unhappy at Madison Square Garden these days.

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

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

"We had a big enough lead and we should have kept it," Johnson said. "The last two minutes or three 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, coach Isiah 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.

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."

Not enough of it for Zach Randolph.

"It's real hard. I ain't never been in a situation like that and I don't understand," he 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."

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, helping New York cut a 23-point deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter.

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

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

Thomas opened his pregame news conference with 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.

Howard has supplanted Nowitzki, the reigning MVP, as the Mavs' leading scorer, but the big German was clearly the first option Monday. He 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.

Dallas led by 13 points at halftime, then quickly blew open the game when Nowitzki scored nine points in the first 3:05 of the third quarter. The lead grew to 71-48 when he converted a three-point play midway through the period, and Nowitzki scored 15 points in the third.

Randolph tried to lead the Knicks back, cutting it to 90-83 with a bucket with 4:09 to go. Terry answered with a jumper and Howard scored to push the lead back into double digits.

"I didn't play too good tonight," Randolph said. "Maybe if I would have started out the game a little better, we would have had a chance to win. But I didn't. Got to start like that from the beginning of the game."


Nowitzki, who had made 58 of 60 free throws dating to Nov. 24, went 0-for-2 during a trip to the line late in the second quarter. He finished 5-of-7 for the game. ... Veteran F Malik Rose was inactive again, which he requested and Thomas agreed to for games when Rose is not going to play. But Thomas said before the game there have been no discussions of a trade. ... The Knicks weren't the only New York athletes booed. John Maine and Oliver Perez, starting pitchers on the Mets team that blew a huge September lead and missed the playoffs, were booed when shown on the overhead scoreboard in the third quarter.