SALT LAKE CITY (TICKER) —The Dallas Mavericks struggled on the boards and were not getting any free throws, so they relied on 3-pointers.
Nick Van Exel buried two clutch 3-pointers in the final 4 1/2 minutes, including the decisive bucket with 13.1 seconds left, as the Dallas Mavericks escaped the Delta Center with a 92-90 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Utah nearly defeated Dallas, which owns the NBA’s best record, for the second time this season with its hustle and muscle. The Jazz held a 15-rebound advantage over the Mavericks, who shot just 44 percent (37-of-84) and attempted only seven free throws.
But Dallas - the league’s fourth-best team from 3-point range - made 12-of-29 shots from beyond the arc, including four in the final 5 1/12 minutes.
The Jazz had an 81-77 lead with 6:31 remaining when Steve Nash sank consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 10-0 run. Van Exel capped the spurt with a 3-pointer to give the Mavs an 87-81 lead with 4:11 to go.
Dallas made four passes on its final possession before Nash found Van Exel in the left corner for a wide-open jumper.
“I just happened to be the last guy over there,” said Van Exel, who scored a season-high 30 points in Saturday’s win over Denver. “I felt good. I thought it would be a little long, but someone was with me tonight.”
“We finally got some good ball movement, found an open guy in the corner,” Dallas coach Don Nelson said. “Van Exel’s the hot guy right now. He’s been shooting the ball well and with confidence and that was the ballgame.”
Matt Harpring, who scored 20 points, missed a leaner from the left baseline as time expired for Utah, which fell to 2-2 since coach Jerry Sloan was suspended seven games for pushing a referee Tuesday in Sacramento.
Malone scored 18 points and Padgett added 13 as the Jazz lost for the fourth time in six games.
“We lost concentration and that three in the corner killed us,” Kirilenko said. “They are not only a 3-point shooting team. We need to take care of the open floor and the 3-point line so it’s pretty hard.”
Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points and Nash finished with 20 for the Mavericks, who have won four straight games and seven of eight.
Finley scored five of his 17 points in the opening 1:15 as Dallas scored the game’s first 10 points. Nowitzki scored five straight points to give the Mavs their largest lead at 20-4 less than seven minutes into the contest.
Nash scored eight points in the second quarter for Dallas, which had a 51-42 halftime advantage.
“This year we have been a second half team,” said Utah forward Tony Massenburg, who had 11 points and a season-high eight rebounds. “Tonight was one of those nights when you just can’t afford to let that other team get ahead of you. They are too good.”
Harpring had seven points during a 13-4 run that brought the Jazz within 61-60 with 3:52 left in the third quarter. The teams were tied five times and exchanged the lead five times in the final 14 minutes before Van Exel’s decisive basket.