Mavericks beat Clippers 98-76

LOS ANGELES The ban was announced by the NBA about 3 hours before the game. Nowitzki received a flagrant-2 foul and an automatic ejection in the fourth quarter of Friday night's 97-88 loss at Utah. He took a backward swing at Matt Harpring with a closed fist and hit him in the face, after he and the Jazz forward got tangled up under the basket.

The Clippers were in even worse shape. Zach Randolph, who bruised his left knee during last Monday's 97-75 loss to Toronto, wasn't able to play, along with center Chris Kaman (left arch), reserve guard Ricky Davis (left knee) and rookie guard Mike Taylor (broken right thumb).

Marcus Camby returned to the Clippers' lineup after missing the previous game due to his father's death and had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Al Thornton also had 16 points.

For the third straight game, Los Angeles never held a lead.

Howard scored 14 points in the third quarter, including a 17-footer that capped an 11-4 run and gave Dallas a 63-44 cushion with 5½ minutes left in the period. Los Angeles got no closer than 13 before Dallas ended the game with an 11-2 run.

The Clippers missed their first seven shots and were 4-for-17 from the field in the opening quarter, enabling the Mavericks to build a 24-13 lead. Baron Davis came up empty on his first six attempts before hitting a 20-footer that cut Dallas' lead to 48-36 with 10:26 left in the third quarter.

Nowitzki averaged 31 points in the other two meetings with the Clippers this season, which the teams split. The missed game will cost him $164,344 in salary.

"It was not surprising, just because of the way the rule is written," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We had contingency plans, based on whether or not there was a suspension, so it wasn't like it ruined our preparation. We had a feeling this could happen. But, for the record, I don't believe it was an intentional thing. I think it was a reactive thing."

Nowitzki missed only two games in each of the previous three seasons, including one-game ban for his hard foul against Utah's Andrei Kirilenko.

James Singleton, who spent his first two seasons with the Clippers, started in Nowitzki's place and scored 11 points in 26 minutes.

Notes: Fred Jones, who signed with the Clippers as a free agent on Sunday, scored eight points in 21 minutes. ... Jones and Randolph were teammates before. Portland traded them to the Knicks along with Dan Dickau on June 28, 2007, for Steve Francis and Channing Frye. ... Kidd's interception of Camby's pass midway through the first quarter was the 2,113rd steal of his career, breaking a tie with Alvin Robertson for eighth place all-time. ... Among the crowd of 16,685 was former Clipper Cuttino Mobley, who announced his retirement on Dec. 11 because of a heart condition just 3 weeks after he and Tim Thomas were dealt to the Knicks for Randolph and Mardy Collins.



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