Nowitzki scored 34 points, including 12 in a decisive stretch of the fourth quarter after Utah took its only lead, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Jazz 90-87 Saturday night.
“Their zone was really effective, I thought, in the third quarter,” Nowitzki said. “They continued it in the fourth and we finally started making some. I got open a couple times and made some big shots.”
Andrei Kirilenko’s fast-break layup capped an 8-0 run and Utah led 69-68 before Nowitzki took control. The 7-foot German made three jump shots early in the game-deciding 19-6 run, then drained two straight 3-pointers before the Mavericks withstood another late Utah rally.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan tried zones and switches to slow the Mavericks’ momentum in the second half.
“We were totally intimidated by the guy to start with because he had such free roam. We never got a hand in his face,” Sloan said. “He’s a terrific player.”
Dallas coach Avery Johnson countered by moving Nowitzki around and found some openings.
“Avery called a timeout and drew up some things for us to attack the zone,” Dallas’ Jerry Stackhouse said. “We did it a couple of times, got some good looks, and Dirk hit some big 3s.”
Nowitzki’s final 3-pointer gave the Mavericks an 87-75 advantage, but Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur sparked a furious rally that cut the lead to 88-84 in the final moments.
“We had an opportunity to keep (the lead), but Dirk had a tremendous game and in the fourth quarter he just killed us,” Kirilenko said.
Nowitzki had struggled this season against the Jazz, averaging 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two previous meetings. But he made 14 of 25 shots Saturday, going 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and also had nine rebounds and five assists.
“I just try and be aggressive. That’s what my team needed. I missed a lot of shots in the second quarter but I tried to keep battling,” Nowitzki said.
Okur scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Kirilenko had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz, who were trying for their first three-game winning streak in two months.
Stackhouse had 16 points and Jason Terry scored 14 for the Mavericks, who have the best record in the Western Conference and lead San Antonio by one game in the Southwest Division.
Dallas is in the midst of playing 10 of its final 13 games this month on the road. The Mavs opened a three-game trip with a 109-92 win over Portland on Thursday.
The Mavericks never trailed and led by as many as 15 in the first half behind the shooting of Nowitzki and Stackhouse.
Okur scored 10 points in the third quarter, including two long 3-pointers, in a 16-4 Jazz run that brought Utah within 58-56.
Nowitzki led the Mavs back in front and his jump shot over the Jazz zone late in the third quarter put Dallas up 68-61.
“That team plays hard,” Stackhouse said. “You’re not going to find any team in the NBA that plays harder than them. It was a good test for us.”
Utah is now 1 1/2 games back of New Orleans for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. ^Notes: Mavericks starting guard Devin Harris aggravated his left quadriceps injury in the first quarter after scoring four points, then Adrian Griffin strained his right hamstring in the third quarter and had to leave the game. Dallas forward Josh Howard sat due to a strained left hamstring and Utah center Greg Ostertag missed the game with a sprained left ankle. … Dallas is 17-1 when Nowitzki scores more than 30 points. Carlos Boozer scored his 3,000th career point in the fourth quarter.