DALLAS -- In a game with playoff implications for both teams, the Dallas Mavericks rode the familiar scoring hand of Dirk Nowitzki to a wild 109-102 overtime victory over Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers.
This one went back-and-fourth throughout with Paul scoring 12 of his season-high 33 points in the final quarter and overtime, including a game-tying floater and what looked to be a game-winning swooping layup with 5.3 seconds left to play and Mavs defensive stopper Shawn Marion draped all over him.
But O.J. Mayo, quiet most of the night for Dallas, somehow escaped a double-team under the basket and converted a lefty underhand scoop to tie the game at 97-97 with 0.6 seconds left and force overtime.
Paul blamed himself for allowing Mayo to sneak out of trouble and score.
"He spun out of the double team and got on the baseline, and that's my fault," Paul said. "I shouldn't have let him do it."
Nowitzki took over in overtime, scoring the Mavs' first eight points. He started with a finger roll, hit a jumper over DeAndre Jordan and made two free throws on a foul on Blake Griffin while shooting a turnaround. The jumper didn't go down, but Nowitzki made both free throws for a 103-100 lead with 1:59 to go, a lead that Dallas finally would not relinquish.
The Mavs' 7-footer, who missed the first 27 games of the season and has struggled to his lowest season scoring average since his rookie campaign, finished by matching Paul with a season-high 33 points and nine rebounds.
Matt Barnes airballed a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 22.9 seconds to play, forcing L.A. to foul. Nowitzki hit two more free throws for a 105-100 lead. Darren Collison made the final four free throws to keep the Clippers at bay.
It was the Mavs' first victory over a top five team in the West since defeating Memphis on Jan. 12, a span of seven games.
"Finally, and I just think we battled down the stretch," Nowitzki said. "Paul is so good, but we just tried to get the ball out of his hands some and make the other guys beat us and that was good for us. I thought that really won the game for us down the stretch. We really scrambled on defense, rotated and got a couple of lucky bounces down the stretch that really helped us."
The Clippers (48-23), who couldn't build upon leads of 70-61 in the third quarter and 87-80 midway through the fourth, are locked in a three-way battle with Denver and Memphis for the third seed in the Western Conference. The loss, which snapped a two-game win streak, dropped them to fourth place behind Denver. Tuesday was the first of four road games in five nights that includes stops at New Orleans on Wednesday followed by San Antonio and Houston.
"That overtime we had some open looks, we just couldn't knock them down," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We missed too many free throws, turned it over a little bit, but we battled and we couldn't get the key stop right at the end. So, we've got another game (Wednesday) night. No one's going to feel sorry for anybody, so we've just got to battle through it and fight through a tough loss."
Dallas (35-36) won for the ninth time its last 12 games as it makes a furious run toward the eighth and final playoff spot currently held by the Los Angeles Lakers. The victory, which made the Mavs to 3-1 on their current six-game homestand, pushed them into a deadlock with Utah for ninth place, one game back of the Lakers.
Many of the Mavs have been growing beards since early February, agreeing not to shave until the team reaches .500 again for the first time since Dec. 12 when they were 11-11.
They will have their team barber at the game and ready to clip and shave.
"We fought an uphill battle all season long, but honestly I think we're playing our best basketball of the season right now," Nowitzki said. "I'm feeling better and we've got to keep this momentum going. We only have so many games left and we've got some big home games coming up, then we go on a big road trip, so we just have to let it all hang out and see what happens."
Dallas took a 50-48 lead into halftime with both teams being hot from the floor. The Clippers led 39-33 before the Mavs went on a 16-4 run with Vince Carter scoring seven consecutive points. Carter and Nowitzki combined for 20 points in the opening half as Dallas shot 50 percent from the floor.
Vince Carter scored 14 points for Dallas and Mayo finished with 11. Paul didn't receive help from All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who had 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Caron Butler had 14 points, but none after hitting consecutive 3-pointers early in the third quarter. Matt Barnes had 10 points off the bench.
After The Clippers shot 55.0 percent from the floor in the first half they finished the game at 44.7 percent. They went 2-of-10 in overtime.
"We just have to be more effective," Paul said. "Fortunately, we know we have a playoff spot, but that does you no good if you're not playing the right way. We played hard and we're going to keep building and keep working because we still have time."
NOTES: Clippers point guard Chris Paul played despite being a game-time decision after bumping his left knee in the previous game. ... It took Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki less than four minutes to score the four points needed to pass Patrick Ewing for 17th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. ... Clippers forward Lamar Odom made his first return to Dallas since Mavs owner Mark Cuban kicked him off the team late last season in his lone season with Dallas. He was loudly booed upon entering the game and each time he touched the ball. ... The Clippers had won the last three meetings and four of the last five since snapping a 10-game losing streak to Dallas on Jan. 18, 2012 in L.A. ... Mavs center Chris Kaman visited with Clippers staffers prior to the game. Kaman, who recently lost his starting job with Dallas, played eight seasons for the Clippers before being included in the trade to New Orleans that sent Chris Paul to L.A. He did not play at all Tuesday night.