Nowitzki, Mavs hold off Pelicans

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- Dirk Nowitzki is nothing if not a perfectionist.
The future NBA Hall of Famer scored Dallas' final five points in a 100-97 victory Wednesday night over the New Orleans Pelicans -- a road win that carried even more importance for the Mavericks because it came on the second night of a back-to-back and helped erase bitter memories of some recent late-game collapses.
Even so, the only thing the 7-foot forward, a career 88 percent foul shooter, could think about after the win was the shot that got away.
Nowitzki scored 15 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, but he missed the second of two foul shots with 32.3 seconds left and Dallas clinging to a precarious 98-97 lead.
"That was a big miss -- a big miss," Nowitzki said, shaking his head. "I hate missing free throws in the first place. It doesn't matter if it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter. That was obviously a big miss."
Just as obvious was the poise Nowitzki and his Dallas teammates showed in the final 30 seconds. Pelicans guard Eric Gordon missed a drive in the lane, and Nowitzki was there to grab the rebound with eight seconds remaining. He was fouled immediately by forward Al-Farouq Aminu.
This time, Nowitzki stepped up and made both free throws to put Dallas on top 100-97.
Coming off a triple-overtime victory against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, the Pelicans had a chance to send the game into overtime. However, forward Ryan Anderson, freed up on a switch, couldn't sink an open 3-pointer at the buzzer. The normally deadly 3-pointer shooter missed four of five from long range.
"We switched at the end, and we kind of left (Anderson)," Nowitzki said. "He still had a clean look from the top of the key, which he probably makes eight out of 10 times. We really dodged a bullet at the end."
After Nowitzki hit an 18-footer with 2:25 left to put the Mavericks on top 97-94, New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday, who led all scorers with 26 points, tied the game with a 3-pointer from 25 feet away on the left wing with 1:25 remaining.
The Mavericks (12-8) recorded their fourth consecutive victory over the Pelicans. New Orleans (9-9) wasted a career effort by Aminu, who finished with a season-high 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
"He played with the energy and effort that he is capable of playing with," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said of Aminu, who was benched for one game last week. "Any time you can collect 20 rebounds, it means you are willing yourself to do more than others on the floor."
The Pelicans used an 8-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game, 73-65, late in the third quarter, but Dallas used a 10-2 run of its own, with seven points coming from forward Jae Crowder, to tie the game at 75.
With Dallas trailing 77-75 to begin the fourth quarter, Nowitzki finally caught fire, sparking an 8-0 run with a 15-footer and 20-footer over Anderson, putting Dallas back on top 83-77 with 9:28 left.
On the strength of Aminu's monster effort on the boards, the Pelicans outrebounded the Mavericks 58-38, but they committed 16 turnovers and shot 40.4 percent from the field. Guards Tyreke Evans and Anthony Morrow, a former Maverick, combined to go 1-for-14 from the floor.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said he loved the collective effort his team produced coming off a victory against the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night. In addition to Nowitzki, Dallas placed six players in double figures: guards Vince Carter (15 points), Monta Ellis (14) and Jose Calderon (12), center DeJuan Blair (12) and forward Shawn Marion (10).
Carlisle singled out Carter, who hit three of four shots from 3-point range.
"We need Vince to play his game and play within our system," Carlisle said. "He's a playmaker, he's a scorer, he's a defender and rebounder and he's a game-closer. He embraces the sixth-man role, which is great. There's not a lot of guys in this league who do that."
NOTES: Pelicans PF Anthony Davis, who was averaging 22.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.6 blocks through 16 games, said it will be frustrating to miss four to six weeks with a non-displaced fracture of his fifth metacarpal on his pinky finger. He broke the finger Sunday night hitting his hand on the rim while trying to catch a lob pass against the New York Knicks. "You want to be on the floor," Davis said after watching his teammates in a Wednesday shootaround, "but I have a lot of confidence in our system with the team and the coaches where we can still pull out wins no matter who is on the floor." ... Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Davis' extended absence -- which could stretch to 20 games -- may force New Orleans into more three-guard sets. ... The Mavericks, who improved to 3-6 on the road, play four straight on the road. ... Dallas PG Jose Calderon is playing through a bruised right ankle.

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