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Mavericks 100, Bulls 98

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DALLAS -- If the Dallas Mavericks somehow squeeze into the playoffs, it'll be on the back of Dirk Nowitzki. And what happened Saturday afternoon will have played a huge part.

Nowitzki drilled a 3-pointer with two seconds left, finishing off a furious rally to lift the Mavericks past the Chicago Bulls, 100-98, at American Airlines Center.

Dallas (36-37) remains in striking distance of Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers in the face for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks are at the Lakers on Tuesday.

The Bulls (39-32) seemed to have the game under control, riding the hot hand of Nate Robinson in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot-9 backup point guard began raining 3-pointers, and Chicago enjoyed a 12-point lead with four minutes left.

Nowitzki then caught fire on his way to a season-high 35 points. He pulled Dallas to within 98-97 with 27 seconds left on a turnaround jumper and after Bulls' forward Jimmy Butler missed two free throws, the stage was set for Nowitzki.

Needing only a basket, Nowitzki passed to Vince Carter, who appeared to have an opening for a shot. Carter, though, passed back to Nowitzki outside the arc and former MVP didn't hesitate. He pulled the trigger and the ball dropped through the net to provide the victory.

The late heroics kept the Bulls from their first four-game winning streak this season and also snapped a four-game winning streak against Dallas.

Robinson, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng each scored 25 points for Chicago. Robinson nailed all seven of his 3-point shots, including three in the fourth quarter.

Carter and Brandan Wright each had 17 points for Dallas. The Mavericks shot 51 percent from the field and outscored Chicago, 48-42, inside.

Chicago appeared to get some breathing room in the third quarter, pushing their lead to double-digits on occasion. The Mavericks, though, finished the period with a 10-0 run to tie the game, 75-75, going into the fourth.

The Bulls took a 58-53 lead into intermission behind Boozer's 18 points. Deng missed only one of seven shots on his way to 13 points, while sparkplug Robinson chipped in 11 off the bench.

Nowitzki's perfection in the half kept the Mavericks close, as he scored 20 points, shooting 8-of 8 from the floor. Wright's activity inside accounted for 11 points. Vince Carter added eight points.

The two power forwards went at it in the first quarter, as Dallas took a 24-23 lead after one. Nowitzki scored eight points on 3-for-3 shooting, including two from beyond the arc.

Boozer had nine points and pulled down three rebounds.

NOTES: Chicago was without Joakim Noah (foot), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain), Richard Hamilton (back) and, as has been the case all season, former MVP Derrick Rose. Noah and Belinelli are possibilities Sunday against Detroit. "Both guys are improving," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Marco's very close, but we just want to make sure." ... Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo is dealing with a mild sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder sustained earlier in the week and is playing with a harness. "He's been one of the toughest guys we've had here in a long time," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "Those are the kind of guys that you want to be able to get in a foxhole with." ... Dirk Nowitzki came into the game having averaged 35.3 points in his last three home games against Chicago.
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