DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks, facing an ugly start to a long and critical homestand, finally heated up at the start of the fourth quarter and rode it to a 96-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
Coming off a heartbreaking one-point loss at San Antonio on Thursday might, the Mavs are still holding out hope they can put together a late push and crash the playoffs.
For such a scenario to gain credence, they had to have this one against Cleveland. The Cavs are the Eastern Conference's 11th-place team and entered the game 20 games under .500 and without its All-Star point guard, Kyrie Irving.
A loss would have been devastating for Dallas (31-34) because two teams ahead them in the West standings, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, also won Friday night. In addition, the Mavs face a difficult test on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team they have yet to beat this season.
Dallas started sluggishly and trailed 24-16 after the first quarter, 46-38 at the half and 68-67 after three quarters.
The Mavs got the boost they needed to start the fourth from reserves Rodrigue Beaubois and Brandan Wright. They scored Dallas' first 13 points of the quarter to lift the Mavs to an 80-72 lead.
Cleveland fell apart without Irving as the pressure mounted late in the game. The Cavs committed three turnovers and scored one field goal in the first five minutes of the fourth.
Dion Waiters supplied the Cavs' only four points of the period until Tristan Thompson managed a put-back at the 4:58 mark to make it 84-74 in favor of the Mavs.
Beaubois led Dallas with 18 points. Wright, Darren Collison and Dirk Nowitzki had 13 apiece, with O.J. Mayo scoring 10.
Waiters led all scorers with 21 points. All five Cavs starters were in double figures, but none had more than Thompson's 12. Daniel Gibson had 13 off the bench.
NOTES: Mavs forward Shawn Marion missed his fifth consecutive game with a calf injury. An MRI exam done Friday revealed a strain and not a contusion as initially believed. Marion is not expected to play Sunday against Oklahoma City. ... If Dallas is to make a playoff push, then it will have to take advantage of this stretch in which it plays eight of its next nine games at home. ... Dallas was coming off a 92-91 loss at San Antonio on Thursday night while Cleveland was playing for the first time since Tuesday night. ... Cavs starting center Tyler Zeller was selected No. 17 overall in the first round of the draft by the Mavs and then traded to the Cavs for the 24th, 33rd and 34th picks.