DALLAS, Feb. 15 (Ticker) -- With Gilbert struggling miserably, the Washington Wizards were hard-pressed to pull out a victory in one of the league's toughest Arenas.

Gilbert Arenas scored only 12 points and was outplayed throughtout by fellow All-Star Dirk Nowitzki as the Wizards dropped a 103-97 decision to the Dallas Mavericks, who won their 11th straight home game.

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The league's fourth-leading scorer at 28.6 points per game, Arenas entered averaging 36.8 points over his last four contests, including a 43-point effort Monday against New Orleans. He also came in fifth in the league with 396 free throws, averaging more than 14 over his last four contests.

"He's similar to Iverson, McGrady and Kobe as where, if they get in a rhythm by going to the free-throw line, then they start to hit jump shots," said Mavericks guard Jason Terry, who guarded Arenas most of the game. "We were able to contain him and keep him off the line. It was a long night for him."

Arenas endured one of his worst games of the season, shooting a dismal 4-of-22 from the field and just 4-of-6 from the line while committing six of the Wizards' 15 turnovers.

"We're definitely pleased with the way we contained him," added Terry, who scored 19 points. "The defining character of a championship team is getting stops when you need to and that's something we've been working towards all year long."

Arenas clearly was outplayed by Nowitzki, who scored 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor and 8-of-10 from the line. He scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, when the Mavericks made all the big plays down the stretch.

"We hit some big shots at the end of the game, and played some good team defense, Terry said. "Dirk hit a couple of big shots towards the end, and that's what we needed."

Caron Butler scored four straight points to bring Washington within 86-85 with 5:56 remaining. Terry answered with a jumper and, after Arenas missed on the other end, Nowitzki sank a pair of free throws and a baseline jumper to extend the cushion to 92-85.

"Playing one of the hottest teams in the league, they're excellent at home," Butler said. "And just to play down to the wire shows a lot about our team and is a big confidence boost on where we can be if we continue to play at that level how we played tonight."

The Wizards continued to scratch away, closing to within 97-96 on Butler's runner with 1:14 to go. But Nowitzki found Erick Dampier for a layup and, after Arenas misfired again, Terry buried a floater for a 101-96 lead with 17 seconds to play.

"It was a great play," Mavericks forward Josh Howard said of Nowitzki's pass to Dampier. "It was something coach (Avery Johnson) drew up, we used it in Memphis too. That's two for two for us."

Howard, who finished with 26 points, sealed the victory with a breakaway dunk in the final seconds.

"They have great players on their team and they don't quit," Howard said. "We had them up by 10 twice and just couldn't put them away. It's hard like that when you have a great team like that your playing against. We finished it out when we needed to at the end."

Marquis Daniels scored 10 points and Dampier added nine rebounds for Dallas, which improved to 22-4 at home and 36-3 when holding its opponent under 100 points. The Mavericks improved to 11-0 at home against Eastern Conference opponents and will enter the All-Star break in the top spot in the West.

"I'd say we are at about 80 percent right now," said Howard, who shot 10-of-17 from the field. "I still think there's a level or two that we can still reach, especially on the defensive end. Our offense has already been clicking and doing a great job. We showed that during the win (13-game winning) streak. Our defense is improved. We just have to continue to grow and learn each other and do what coach asks us to do."

Butler enjoyed one of his best games of the season, collecting 27 points and 11 rebounds. Antawn Jamison chipped in 24 and 11 for Washington, which has lost two straight games following a five-game winning streak.

"I really wanted to just spark the team tonight and bounce back," Butler said. "I think I did that, but we still fell a little short collectively. Hopefully we bounce back after the All-Star break."