And he did just that.
Howard had 23 points and a season-high 14 rebounds, helping the Mavericks overcome a subpar game from Nowitzki to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 91-80 on Friday night.
"They look for me to do a lot on this team," Howard said. "Whatever I need to do to get us going, I'm going to do it."
Nowitzki, the defending league MVP, began the night averaging 21.7 points, but was 0-for-5 in the first quarter and went without a point for the game's opening 20 minutes, 45 seconds. He finally converted a three-point play to give the Mavericks a 36-30 lead. Nowitzki finished with 11 points.
Howard shot 8-for-15 from the field and made all seven free throw attempts.
"Josh is our firestarter," teammate Jerry Stackhouse said. "He gets the party jumping. We depend on him to do that every night."
Dallas-area native and former University of Texas star LaMarcus Aldridge led the Trail Blazers with 22 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots.
Aldridge drew the primary defensive assignment on Nowitzki, who missed 10 of 15 shots from the floor, but Aldridge also had plenty of double-teaming help.
"It's a team effort," Aldridge said. "Everyone took turns guarding him. When you get double-teamed, it's hard to score."
"Moral victories don't mean anything," Aldridge said. "We had breakdowns at bad times. It's part of growing up."
Portland had lost 13 straight to Dallas until the Blazers beat the Mavericks on Nov. 10 in Portland, 91-82, holding Nowitzki to 11 points.
Brandon Roy, NBA Rookie of the Year last season, led the Blazers with 32 points in the win at Portland, but he finished with only eight points in Friday night's rematch.
In his last four games, Roy is averaging only 10.8 ppg. and has gone 17-for-59 from the field.
"Things like that happen," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "Everyone's going to have a week where the rhythm's not there."
Howard scored six points during an 8-0 third-quarter run to stretch Dallas' advantage to 66-47.
The Mavericks went 14-for-19 from the field in the third quarter and took a 76-59 lead.
The Blazers moved to 76-65 with 9:10 left on back-to-back baskets by Aldridge.
Howard converted a three-point play and Terry drained a 3-pointer with 8:24 remaining to build the back lead, 81-65.
Portland made one last charge, using an 8-0 run capped by Blake's 3-pointer with 1:48 left to pull to 86-80.
But Harris hit two free throws with 1:13 remaining, Terry hit a jumper with 36 seconds left and Terry converted one of two free throws with 14.9 seconds left to ice the win.
"Their coach isn't going to let them lay down," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "But we were able to hand in and dig it out at the end."
Nowitzki scored seven of Dallas' last 11 points of the second quarter and the Mavericks entered halftime with a 44-36 lead despite shooting a chilly 39 percent from the floor (18-for-46).
James Jones was back in the Portland rotation after missing 12 games with a knee injury. ... Dallas F Devean George (left foot) and G Eddie Jones (sore right leg) will go through a full practice next Tuesday, and then Johnson will decide when each will be added to the rotation. Johnson said George is closer to game action than Jones, who has been under orders to lose weight. ... Aldridge had to come up with 45 tickets for family and friends. ... Blake got hit in the mouth when he fouled Howard with 5:34 left in the third quarter and went to the locker room for treatment before returning in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks get their first postseason win in Boston since 1988, finishing off the Celtics 104-92, for a 4-2 series victory.
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The Hawks scored 39 points in the third quarter to pull away from the Celtics and won Thursday night's Game 6 104-92 to advance to the second round, where they'll face the Cleveland Cavaliers.