Josh Howard had to watch the Dallas Mavericks’ loss on Friday from the sidelines after suffering a sprained ankle. He wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again Saturday when Dallas hosts the Portland Trail Blazers.
Howard sprained his right ankle going for a loose ball with 4:40 left in the first quarter of Friday night’s 75-71 loss to the Denver Nuggets. He did not return, finishing with just two points.
The forward’s 19.2 points per game rank second on the Mavericks, but ankle ailments have hindered him. He missed eight games earlier in the year with a sprained left ankle, and two more in late January after spraining his right ankle.
Howard, however, wasn’t limping after the game and said he didn’t expect to miss Saturday’s contest.
“The ankle is fine,” he said. “I”m fine.”
The loss meant Dallas (62-13) will not join the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls as the only teams in NBA history to win 70 games. If the Mavericks win out, they can finish with 69.
Friday’s 71 points were the fewest the Mavericks have scored this season. The poor offensive night came despite the return of Dirk Nowitzki, who missed Tuesday’s 97-93 win at Sacramento because of food poisoning.
Nowitzki had 22 points and 12 rebounds Friday.
The Mavericks are trying to avoid suffering consecutive losses for just the second time since opening the season 0-4. They lost at Golden State on March 12, then fell at home to Portland in double overtime on March 14.
Dallas has won both meetings against Portland (31-44) this season, and 12 straight overall between the teams. The last matchup was a 99-74 Mavericks victory at home Jan. 10, when Jason Terry had 20 points to lead six Dallas players in double figures.
Portland has won its last two games, including an 85-78 victory over the undermanned Houston Rockets on Friday, following a four-game losing streak. Brandon Roy scored 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the floor, while Jarrett Jack added 23 points against a Houston team playing without stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
The Blazers were also short-handed. Leading scorer and rebounder Zach Randolph is out for the season with a hand injury, and center Joel Przybilla is done for the year following left knee surgery. Rookie LaMarcus Aldridge also did not play, after being taken to the hospital because of dizziness and an irregular heartbeat last Saturday.
With the injuries, Roy has stepped up his play, scoring at least 20 points in six of his last seven games.
“I wanted to be more aggressive and more assertive to make plays,” Roy said. “These last couple of games I’ve been able to make some shots and my confidence is going up because I know I’m going to get more shots.”