DALLAS (AP)—Mavericks coach Avery Johnson was a little happier with his team’s defensive effort.
Jason Terry scored 21 points and Josh Howard added 20 for the Mavericks, who had lost five of their previous seven and experienced the first three-game skid under Johnson. The Mavericks had been competing with Detroit and San Antonio for the NBA’s best record before falling off the pace.
Johnson gave his team an angry dressing down for lax defense following Friday night’s loss at Orlando. Johnson was displeased with his team’s defense in all of the three consecutive road defeats to Detroit, Cleveland and Orlando.
“We thought we were pretty good defensively, for the most part, against one of the tougher teams in the Western Conference,” Johnson said. “We knew we had to be physical.”
The Mavericks responded with better defense as the Nuggets shot 33 percent from the field in the first quarter while Dallas grabbed a 29-18 lead.
“I think we had a lot more sense of urgency coming out,” Nowitzki said. “We got back to the basics and what we’ve been doing all season long. We wanted to stop the bleeding.”
Denver finished 29-for-75 from the floor, committed 19 turnovers and was outrebounded by 42-30.
“We were so bad offensively,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Defensively they found all the answers. We simply lost confidence in our offense.”
The Nuggets were tentative against a Mavericks defense that included plenty of zone.
Dallas is 29-1 this season when holding its opponent to below 90 points this season, 9-0 when limiting the opposition to 80 or less.
“Against a team like that you have to hit shots,” Anthony said. “They sat in a zone and we couldn’t do much.”
Nowitzki connected on his first four shots of the final quarter, including a 3-pointer as the Mavs pulled away while the crowd chanted, “MVP, MVP.”
He extended a career-high streak with his 21st straight game with 20 or more points and had his 31st double-double of the season.
Erick Dampier had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Dallas.
Denver edged in front for the first time, 49-48, early in the third quarter before Dallas went on a 21-5 run capped by Nowitzki’s 3-pointer for a 69-54 advantage.
The Mavericks carried a 73-58 lead into the final quarter and went on to their 55th victory, matching the fourth-most in team history.
Denver had second-quarter runs of 12-0 and 9-0 and by halftime Dallas’ lead, once as large as 14, had been trimmed to 44-40.
Dallas, averaging 13.5 turnovers per game, got its 14th early in the third quarter and finished with 19.
Prior to the game the already-shorthanded Mavericks announced that forward Keith Van Horn will be out indefinitely due to a broken right hand.
Van Horn sustained the injury in Friday night’s loss to Orlando. Surgery will be performed to repair a broken bone between the wrist and the base of the thumb once swelling subsides and Van Horn’s return for the playoffs is unlikely.
The Mavericks’ bench was further shortened when guard Marquis Daniels was ruled out of Sunday’s game with a strained neck. Forward Adrian Griffin (strained hamstring) and guard Devin Harris (strained quad) also were out for the Mavericks.
Miller swished a 75-foot 3-point heave at the end of the first quarter. … Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was livid over some first-half calls by officials Dan Crawford, Leroy Richardson and Rodney Mott. “That was the worst half of officiating I’ve ever seen,” Cuban said. “That was terrible, and I want it on the record I said that at halftime, no matter what the outcome.”