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 led 106-99 with 2:42 to go, a cushion 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.
"He's a great one. He knew that we needed a lift," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki's big scoring night. "The 3s that he hit when we were struggling to start the second half and then he got fouled on one or two of them, were just massive, massive plays. We're fortunate. Our guys played hard, but they played really hard, too. We're on the climb. We're trying to build this thing back up to where we were."
New Orleans guard Austin Rivers, guarded by DALLAS guard Monta Ellis on the final possession, couldn't get off a final shot attempt. Rivers thought he was fouled above the 3-point arc and pleaded his case, but no whistle blew.
That's just too bad. That's just not right," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "If we stopped it with .5 (seconds) on the clock, and Monta Ellis' arm is across Austin's -- both of his arms for a 3-point shot. It's hard to swallow that kind of no-call in a game like that, especially when Dirk gets the same call on the right side in the first half. That's a tough one. Then they shot I think 45 free throws. So, it's hard to swallow that. Certainly not going to blame the game on the refs, but certainly didn't like that call at the end."
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.
"We basically have a new team now and we want to be better in two weeks," Williams said. "So, it's going to take us going after it like we did today against a really good team that's probably going to be in the playoffs. We've got to go after it the way that we did. We made a lot of mistakes. We had a two-point lead, we took some tough shots and then I think we had three turnovers in a row and it really put us in a hole. They were able to capture the lead. I love the way we competed tonight, but that's what you should do. I'm not going to pat anybody on the back for competing. That's what you should you every single night."
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.
"It was the fourth game in five nights and it was the same for them as well so it kind of looked like it," Nowitzki said. "Then all of the sudden the basket started opening up and everybody's confidence went up. But I think we gave up 60 or 70 points in the second half. If we get this hot we should have won easier than we did. It came all the way down to the end and we had to grind it out so that was a little disappointing, but offensively it was a great night in the second half."
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. ... Mavericks 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. ... Mavericks G Wayne Ellington missed his second consecutive game with an illness. ... Mavericks 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.