Holding the ball after a wild scramble under Minnesota's basket in the closing seconds, Howard threw the ball to the other end of the court. Randy Foye had enough time to track it down and hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but Dallas still won 94-93 for its 15th straight home victory Saturday night.
"It was a little too soon," Howard said. "I thought it was over, but he still had to run down the court to get the shot off and get a 3. But it was cool. We still won it."
Jason Terry and Howard, who missed the last two games because of the birth of his first child, both had 22 points.
"It was good to have Josh back. I told him he was gone long enough, to kiss that baby and come home," Jerry Stackhouse said.
"Josh is so big for us. He is all over for us," coach Avery Johnson said. "He didn't have the greatest game shooting the ball (8-for-20), but we definitely needed his energy."
It was another frustrating night for Garnett, who got into early foul trouble and didn't get his first rebound until midway through the third quarter. The former MVP went on to grab 12 rebounds to go with his 25 points -- 10 in the fourth quarter.
But that wasn't enough for Minnesota, which lost for the ninth time in 11 games despite coming back from a 17-point deficit in the second half.
"It's like a broken record. Our guys fought and hung in there," said Randy Wittman, 2-5 since replacing the fired Dwane Casey. "We were aggressive, but four free throws in the first half, I didn't think we got a fair whistle."
The Mavericks made 17 of 19 free throws before halftime, when they led 56-47. Minnesota made its only four before then.
Davis, who had 20 points, thought he was fouled in that final scrum. Garnett might have been hacked as well.
"It's tough making that call," Davis said. "I wasn't surprised at all they didn't call it."
Dirk Nowitzki made two free throws with 15 seconds left, after Garnett's only foul in the second half, to put the Mavs up 94-90. Nowitzki is the only All-Star from the Mavericks for the fourth straight year, even though they have the NBA's best record (32-9).
Howard made his first two shots in the opening minute of his first game in a week. He came in averaging 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, but was left off the Western Conference All-Star team when the reserves were named Thursday night.
Nowitzki had 18 points for Dallas, which hasn't lost at home since a 92-82 loss to Detroit on Dec. 7. The Mavs can tie the franchise record of 16 in a row they set last year when they play Wednesday night against Memphis, the same team they beat by a point in their previous game.
Terry scored many of his points when the Mavericks needed a spark.
After Mike James hit a 3-pointer to get Minnesota to 71-63 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third, the Mavericks missed a shot and Garnett had two offensive rebounds in the same possession without a point. Terry then made two free throws and hit a short floater.
Midway through the second quarter, Terry also had four straight points -- two free throws before he penetrated for a short jumper to put the Mavs ahead 40-39 with 5:37 left. They never trailed again.
That came just more than a minute after Garnett picked up his third foul. Erick Dampier hit two free throws, starting a 22-10 run the rest of the half.
Garnett has 18,381 career points, passing Julius Irving for 48th on the NBA's career list. ... Minnesota, which lost against New Orleans on Friday night, is 5-8 this season on the second night of back-to-back games. ... Dallas missed its first six shots in the second quarter before Terry weaved through traffic for a driving layup to tie the game at 31. ... Dallas also beat Minnesota on Nov. 27, also at home.