From AP REPORTS
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – The Dallas Mavericks started one of their toughest road trips of the season with an easy victory.
With three games looming against Eastern Conference division leaders, Josh Howard hit his first eight shots on the way to 26 points and Dallas shot 54 percent in a 103-84 victory over the lowly Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
"Every team is a great team, especially on its home court," said Howard, who was 10-of-17 from the floor. "We had to take (the Grizzlies) seriously. It's a great start, but we've got three more to go."
The Mavericks still have to play Boston, Detroit and Orlando on a four-game trip before returning home Feb. 6 against Milwaukee.
Playing on Memphis' home floor really isn't that tough for the Mavericks. Dallas has won 13 straight over the Grizzlies, including a sweep of Memphis in the opening round of the 2006 playoffs. The Mavericks have never lost at the FedExForum, which opened in 2004. The Grizzlies' last home victory over Dallas was Feb. 17, 2004, in their previous home, The Pyramid.
Dirk Nowitzki added 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Jason Terry finished with 14 points for the Mavericks, who won their fourth straight and 12th in the last 14. Erick Dampier contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Mavericks were without starting guard Devin Harris and forward Jerry Stackhouse, one of their top reserves, who sat out with injuries.
"We pride ourselves whenever we have a man down, banning together and really putting together some great efforts," Terry said.
Rudy Gay led Memphis with 18 points, Kyle Lowry scored 17 and Juan Carlos Navarro had 16 points. Pau Gasol finished with 13 points for Memphis, which lost its third game in the last four.
Memphis never led and never even threatened the Mavericks. Dallas put the game away early with accurate shooting and dominant play inside.
"I thought defensively, although we were playing hard, they were getting too many easy shots and making their shots when they got them," Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said.
The Mavericks finished the night with a 47-33 advantage on the boards and outscored the Grizzlies 52-36 in the paint, eventually building the lead to as many as 29 points — the largest deficit Memphis has faced this season.
A weak Memphis defense gave the Mavericks open shots and Dallas made 70 percent in the first quarter, with Howard going 5-for-5.
"I think the first quarter really set the tone for us," Nowitzki said. "We didn't want to trade baskets and get their confidence up and all of a sudden they make shots. Then, you're in trouble."
While Dallas couldn't maintain that pace, the Mavericks did shoot 63 percent for the half. They carried a 61-44 lead into the break, matching their largest advantage of the first half.
"They came out ready. We didn't," said Memphis guard Mike Miller, who was limited to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. "The games we've won, we jumped out early and played well. The games we haven't played very well, it's been bad starts. We've just got to start the games better."
Dallas extended the lead in the second half, eventually building the advantage to 29 before carrying an 84-63 lead into the fourth.
By that time, Dallas was in coast mode, never letting the Grizzlies get closer than 15 points during the final period, even in mop-up time with the deep reserves on the floor. And that gave the Mavericks a little momentum heading into the next three games.
"It's going to be a tough trip," Nowitzki said. "Boston is the best team right now in the league. Best record. We all know what Detroit is like at home. They're tough to beat. It's going to be a fun trip. Very tough."
Notes: Harris, who averages 14.4 points, did not travel to Memphis and will miss two to three weeks with a bone bruise on his left ankle. He was injured in the fourth quarter of Dallas' 90-85 victory over Denver on Sunday. … Stackhouse missed his third straight game with a strained right hamstring. … Before the game, the Grizzlies released veteran G Damon Stoudamire as part of the buyout agreement for his contract. … Gasol returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a sore back. Point guard Mike Conley missed his second game with a chest contusion. He could be out for a week to 10 days. … It was Nowitzki's 14th consecutive game with at least 20 points. … The Grizzlies matched their season low in turnovers with seven.