DALLAS, Dec. 3 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki came up big at the start of the game and even bigger at the end.

Nowitzki scored 16 of his 30 points in the final period as the Dallas Mavericks averted a third straight loss by posting a 97-88 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

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The Mavericks never trailed, scoring the game's first 12 points, with the All-Star 7-footer collecting eight.

"We really set the tone early," Nowitzki said. "We jumped up to a nice little lead there. I felt good in warmups and hit my first couple of shots; obviously, you're confidence goes up a little bit."

"We got off to a very sluggish start for whatever reason," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We knew they were going to be ready tonight after losing two in a row. We were fighting an uphill battle from the start and basically did that the whole night."

Nowitzki, who had made only 8-of-35 shots in the last two games, was much more efficient Saturday, making 10-of-17 shots.

"I work too hard to struggle very much," Nowitzki said. "I've got confidence in my shot. I'll always come back and there are always going to be nights when the shots not going."

Rookie guard Chris Paul helped the Hornets get back in the game by scoring 25 points, one shy of his season best. He capped a 10-2 burst early in the third quarter with a jumper that cut the deficit to 51-50.

Backup point guard Speedy Claxton added 21 points for the Hornets, who had won five of their previous six games.

"There guards are really crafty in there," Nowitzki said. "They got in the lane some with the pick-and-roll coverage we had. Their point guards have been doing that all season long."

Dallas maintained a slim advantage until midway through the fourth quarter. After Paul made it 78-75 with another jumper, the Mavericks took control of the contest by putting together a 19-5 burst.

"It was good that in the fourth quarter we found a way to stop them," Nowitzki said. "We mixed in a zone a little bit on defense and that really helped. Offensively, we just made some plays."

Nowitzki scored 14 points during the surge, capping it with a pair of free throws with 1:29 remaining.

"I got good looks all night," Nowitzki said. "I know I've got to be aggressive for this team. I can't be passive and stay back. I've got to be aggressive and drive and get to the line. At least make the defense play me."

"They were making shots down the stretch," Claxton said. "Dirk kind of put them on his back and took over."

Jason Terry added 20 points for Dallas, which was coming off a pair of two-point losses. It was a critical win for the Mavericks, who begin a tough three-game road trip Monday that takes them to Chicago, Indiana and Memphis.

"We didn't want to lose a third straight game," said Mavericks guard Marquis Daniels, who collected 13 points and five assists. "We just wanted to come into this game and get as many people to help out as possible."

Daniels is averaging 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists since moving into the starting lineup five games ago.