Rice, who missed the previous five games because of a bruised right knee, hit a jumper from the top of the key as time expired Wednesday night to give the Clippers a 100-99 victory over Dallas.
“It feels great,” Rice said. “Being a shooter, you’ve got to be ready. Tonight it went in at the right time. I was able to catch it in rhythm and stroke it.”
Corey Maggette scored 20 of his 30 points in the first half for Los Angeles, which overcame a 22-point deficit. Chris Wilcox scored 21 points off the bench and Elton Brand had 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Clippers beat the Mavericks for only the fourth time in their last 22 meetings.
Michael Finley was nearly unstoppable in the first half for the Mavericks, scoring 29 of his 38 points. Antoine Walker finished with 21 points and 10 assists, but had a critical shot blocked by Brand in the final two minutes to give the Clippers a chance to pull it out.
The loss was the fourth straight on the road for the Mavericks, who tied for the best road record in the NBA last season. It left coach Don Nelson still needing one more win to tie Pat Riley for second place on the career coaching victories list behind Lenny Wilkens.
“The game was very disappointing,” Nelson said. “We really let them back in the game by doing some unlikely things. It was a comedy of errors out there.”
Nowitzki, the league’s sixth-leading scorer last season, was averaging 19.2 points and 7.3 rebounds when he strained his right ankle on Nov. 26 at Phoenix. He contributed nine points and three rebounds in 27 minutes after missing five games.
“It’s been tough to watch,” said Nowitzki, who had sat out just eight games during the previous four seasons. “I’m just glad that it feels much better. I’ve been out for two weeks, and that’s the longest I’ve ever missed with an ankle injury. But I don’t have any pain anymore, so I’ll just try to work my way back in and find a rhythm.”
Dallas point guard Steve Nash had a chance to give Dallas a three-point lead with 12.1 seconds left, the 93 percent foul-shooter missed both to end his streak of 23 in a row.
Nowitzki rebounded a missed 20-footer by Maggette, but tripped over Rice’s feet as he came down and lost the ball out of bounds to give the Clippers one last chance. Brand missed a baseline jumper from the left side and Finley batted the ball right into the hands of Rice.
“Rice makes good decisions, and the right plays for us when he’s out there,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Having that veteran got out there at times has worked for us. And when the ball got to him, that was as much as I could hope for.”
In their previous home game, the Clippers lost Sunday on a buzzer-beating jumper by Kevin Garnett of Minnesota.
“It feels good to be a part of this. We owed it to the fans for the Minnesota game the other day,” Brand said. “They saw a last-second buzzer-beater on the other side, so for us to hit one tonight was a great feeling.”
Finley, whose 28-point effort on Nov. 28 against Chicago was his previous best this season, topped that on 17-footer in the final minute of the first half.
The two-time All-Star guard played the entire third quarter, then started the fourth with a reverse layup and a 19-footer to help increase a five-point lead to 86-79 with 10:58 to play.
Finley made 13 of 16 shots in the first half and the Mavericks were a collective 61.8 percent from the field, but led only 60-56. It was the fourth time in 21 games that the Mavericks had at least 60 points by halftime, with the other three resulting in wins.
The Mavericks needed just over nine minutes to build a 35-15 lead. They forced six turnovers during that span, while Finley and Walker each went 5-for-5 from the field.
After Walker opened the second quarter with a short-running hook that madeit 41-19, the Clippers stormed back with 14 points by Maggette in a 5:03 span.
The Mavericks, who came in averaging the fewest turnovers in the league, had nine. … In their previous meeting with the Clippers on March 26,Nowitzki scored eight points in the final 76 seconds of a 114-107 win.