NEW YORK - Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter paced a balanced scoring attack with 20 points each, as the Dallas Mavericks outgunned the Brooklyn Nets 98-90 on Friday night at the Barclays Center.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Mavericks (26-32), who are desperately trying to keep their 11-year playoff streak intact. Dallas trails Houston by 4.5 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The loss was only the third for Brooklyn (34-25) this season in 22 games against teams with a .500 or worse record. The Nets hurt themselves with 20 turnovers, several of which were unforced.
It was a vital game for the Nets, who have an eight-game road trip upcoming from March 20 through April 3, making every home game critical in their bid to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Brooklyn has only eight home games remaining after Friday night. They have won just three of their last nine home contests.
Besides Nowitzki and Carter, the Mavericks received 17 points from O.J. Mayo.
Deron Williams scored a game-high 24 points to pace the Nets, but also committed seven turnovers. Brook Lopez added 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Nets trailed by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter, but sliced the lead to 93-88 with 59 seconds left on a driving basket by C.J. Watson. But Carter made one free throw with 48.6 seconds left to give Dallas a 94-88 lead. Lopez hit two free throws to cut the lead to 94-90 with 37 seconds left, but the Mavs made two free throws to ice the win.
The two teams started off cold to start the third quarter, but the Mavs broke a 52-52 tie by scoring seven straight points midway through the period, five coming from Nowitzki on two free throws and a 26-foot 3-pointer.
When Mayo drove right at Lopez and put one in off glass, Dallas had a 59-52 lead with 7:13 remaining in the third.
The Mavericks maintained the pressure for the remainder of the quarter, pushing the lead to 77-63, outscoring the Nets 11-2 over the final 2:59 to take a 77-63 lead into the final period. Carter hit a straightaway 3-pointer and a driving layup during that stretch.
Dallas outscored Brooklyn, 29-14, in the third quarter -- a period that has plagued the Nets all season long.
Mavericks rookie Jae Crowder and veteran Mike James each nailed a long 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, giving Dallas a huge 83-63 lead early in the period.
The Nets cut the lead to 80-71 with 3:38 left, but Mayo canned a 3-pointer that pushed the lead back to double digits.
Williams, who has regained his shooting touch of late, was once again on target for the Nets, hitting two from long range en route to 10 points overall in the first period. Williams hit two 3-pointers in an 8-0 run that gave the Nets a 21-20 lead, before Nowitzki scored on a layup to give the Mavericks a 22-21 lead at the end of the first period.
Joe Johnson, who missed the prior three games with a sore left heel, got going in the opening stages of the second period, first nailing a 17-foot jumper, then scoring on an alley-oop lay-in off a pass from Andray Blatche, giving the Nets a 27-26 lead with 9:09 left in the first half.
It was a first half that featured 18 lead changes, including five possessions in a row. Williams hit a driving shot with 1:31 left that gave the Nets their biggest lead at 49-45, but Mayo completed a conventional three-point play with just nine seconds left that sliced the lead to 49-48 at the half.
Williams led all scorers at halftime with 17 points. Mayo had 11 and Nowitzki 10 for the Mavs.
NOTES: Johnson returned to action after missing the last three games with a sore left heel. Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said that he was going to be cautious with Johnson in his return. "He hasn't practiced or played in a week," Carlesimo said. "We don't want to push it right away and we have back-to-back games. Joe will have a lot to say about it, especially if and when it starts to hurt." Johnson had 11 points in 30 minutes, but did not play down the stretch... The Nets also welcomed back MarShon Brooks, who had missed practices since suffering a right wrist sprain in the Nets' win over New Orleans Tuesday...The Nets shipped forward Tornike "Toko" Shengelia to Springfield of the Developmental League to get some playing time...Carlesimo sang the praises of Nowitzki, calling him "one of the most dominant weapons in NBA history. He's a problem with the skill set he has. He's so big. He can shoot the three. He can put the ball on the floor and also post up. It's hard to get anyone to guard him."...The Mavericks did not list a single player on the injured list...The Nets faced Carter, who was a three-time All-Star with the Nets and still ranks No. 2 on the franchise's all-time scoring list. Carter averaged nearly 24 points per game in his five seasons with the Nets.