DALLAS -- Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 of his season-high 40 points in the third quarter and drained two crucial free throws in the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter to help DALLAS fend off the short-handed but feisty New Orleans Pelicans, 110-107, Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
Nowitzki, 10-for-20 from the floor -- after starting 2-for-8 -- and 15-for-16 from the free throw line, missed only his first and last shot of the third quarter as the Mavericks built an 11-point lead. But the injury-riddled Pelicans, playing without key guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, plus forward Ryan Anderson, continued to fight and took a 99-97 lead with 4:10 to play.
But from there, the Pelicans' depleted backcourt resulted in poor execution that included four turnovers in five possessions. DALLAS took advantage with a 9-2 spurt and lead 106-99 with 2:42 to go, just big enough to ward off New Orleans' last challenge that forced Nowitzki and then guard Jose Calderon to make free throws in the final 20 seconds.
New Orleans guard Austin Rivers, guarded by DALLAS guard Monta Ellis on the final possession, couldn't get off a final shot attempt. He thought he was fouled above the 3-point arc, but no whistle blew.
It was the second consecutive victory for the Mavericks against the Pelicans. On Friday night, the Mavericks won in a rout.
For the Pelicans (15-21), it was their fifth consecutive defeat and the road doesn't get any easier. They do get to go back home for three consecutive games, and they'll have to face San Antonio, Houston and Golden State.
DALLAS (22-16) won their second consecutive game after getting blown out at San Antonio. Ellis had a big night with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists. He hit two key free throws with 3:18 to go that put DALLAS back ahead 101-99. Calderon finished with 17 points that included four 3-pointers.
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis had a team-high 28 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Eric Gordon had 20 points and Al-Farouq Aminu had 15 points and 11 boards. They got a surprise performance -- and nearly a game-deciding performance from forward Darius Miller, who had 12 points on four 3-pointers, including a final one that cut DALLAS' lead to 108-107 with 11.7 seconds to go.
Both teams looked like clubs playing the final game of four games in five nights with awful early shooting. DALLAS was just 2-for-17 from the floor in the first quarter, but the Pelicans didn't take advantage, going just 6-for-16 to lead 22-17.
An 11-6 run to close the second quarter gave DALLAS a 42-37 lead at halftime despite shooting 27.3 percent for the half. Helping the cause was that four of their nine made field goals were from beyond the arc and DALLAS was 20-for-24 from the free throw line. The Pelicans were just 1-for-6 from distance in the opening half and 12-for-14 from the free throw line.
NOTES: Pelicans G Tyreke Evans added his name to the injury list and did not play, along with G Jrue Holiday and F Ryan Anderson, due to a sprained ankle he re-injured Friday night in the first of back-to-back games against DALLAS. ... Mavs F Shawn Marion missed his third consecutive game with bruised ribs and a bruised right shoulder. He is also expected to miss Monday's home game against Orlando. ... Mavs G Wayne Ellington missed his second consecutive game with an illness. ... Mavs G Devin Harris is expected to go through his first full practice of the season Tuesday and hopes to be ready to make his season debut in about two weeks. Harris has been out all season after having toe surgery during the offseason. ... DALLAS had won 20 of the last 22 meetings at home against their Southwest Division rival.