DALLAS – Josh Howard scored 26 points and the Dallas Mavericks overcame the loss of Dirk Nowitzki to beat the Toronto Raptors 117-98 for their 11th straight win Wednesday night.

Nowitzki left the game in the first quarter with blurred vision. A team spokesperson said he was not poked in the eye but he did not return.

Nowitzki and a team trainer walked off the floor with 1:46 remaining in the first. The five-time All-Star had six points and six rebounds in 10 minutes.

Howard keyed a 12-4 run in the third with a 3-pointer and a three-point play after the Raptors rallied to cut it to 64-59.

Dallas’ Jerry Stackhouse added 23 points, Jason Terry chipped in 14, and Erick Dampier had 13 points and 14 rebounds. The Mavericks have won 22 straight games against Eastern Conference opponents.

Chris Bosh scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Toronto, which fell to 1-8 on the road.

After losing their first four games, the Mavericks have embarked on the franchise’s third-longest winning streak.

The Mavericks, who led throughout the game, surged out to a 26-6 lead by hitting 10 of their first 14 shots. Dallas led 38-23 after the first quarter – the fourth straight game it has scored at least 30 in the opening quarter.

The Raptors took advantage of Nowitzki’s absence in the second quarter as they crept within 10 points at halftime.

T.J. Ford, who also had 18 points, scored consecutive baskets and fed Bosh for a dunk as Toronto cut Dallas’ lead to 64-59 early in the third.

But that was as close as the Raptors got.

Howard followed with a 3-pointer to put Dallas ahead by eight. He then capped the run with a three-point play to give Dallas a 76-63 cushion with 4:13 left in the third.

Dallas stretched its lead to 89-74 after three and led by as many as 24 in the fourth.

Jorge Garbajosa had 13 points and Andrea Bargnani and Joey Graham each had 12 for the Raptors, who have lost 12 of their last 14 games to the Mavericks.

Notes: Dallas’ last loss to an Eastern Conference foe was to the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 8, 2005. … Toronto F Morris Peterson missed his fifth game with a tendon tear in his left elbow. … Toronto’s Darrick Martin hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer. The Raptors extended their NBA record with a 3-pointer in 629 straight games.

AP-ES-11-29-06 2311EST

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