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 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 Friday night 20 games under .500, and they were without 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.
"We struggled partly because we couldn't [hit any shots] on offense," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Defensively, they were getting momentum into their offense and they were scoring. Nights like tonight, you've just got to keep finishing until you find something that works, is effective."
Dallas started sluggishly and trailed 24-16 after the first quarter, 46-38 at the half and 68-67 after three quarters.
The Mavs finally found something that worked, getting a timely boost 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. The Cavs wouldn't threaten the rest of the way.
Beaubois, who had nine of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, has been mostly out of the rotation all season and didn't play at all the previous night in San Antonio. He was fresh for the second game of the back-to-back set.
"When he [Carlisle] put me into the game I just tried to be aggressive and step forward at that moment," Beaubois said. "I just tried to play hard and help the team get the win. I've been up and down this season so I just need to keep working. A night like tonight, everybody was into it because we knew we needed to win this game."
Cleveland(22-43), which held Dallas to 38.6 percent shooting in the first half and committed just seven turnovers, fell apart without Irving as the pressure mounted late in the game. The Cavs committed three of their 18 turnovers and scored just one field goal in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to fall behind by 12.
The Cavs scored just 40 points in the second half on 40.5 percent shooting, and just four more field goals (15) than turnovers (11).
"The stupid turnovers kind of add up and the little things you just can't afford to do, and we have to get better," Cavs rookie center Tyler Zeller said. "We just started to miss shots and they did a much better job at getting us off the boards. We just didn't create opportunities the second half the way we did the first half."
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.
"It just seemed like we lost that energy that we had in the first quarter and the first half," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "[You've] got to give them credit. I thought they started to put a little more pressure on us. We got a little antsy with the ball -- 18 turnovers is too many for us against a team like this."
Wright, Darren Collison and Dirk Nowitzki complemented Beaubois' 18-point, five-assist game by each scoring 13 points. O.J. Mayo scored 10 points and reserve rookie forward Jae Crowder grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
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. Zeller had 10 points and 10 rebounds, but he had 10 and nine in the first half.
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. ... Cleveland was playing for the first time since Tuesday night. ... Zeller was selected No. 17 overall in the first round of last year's draft by the Mavs and then traded to the Cavs for the 24th, 33rd and 34th picks.