Nowitzki Holds Off Jazz, Lifts Mavericks
Dallas 90, Utah 87
SALT LAKE CITY, March 11 (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks could have fallen apart after giving up a big lead. Instead, Dirk Nowitzki got hot and led them to victory.
Nowitzki scored 12 of his 34 points in the final 7:32 as the Mavericks held on for a 90-87 triumph over the Utah Jazz.
"Their zone was really effective in the third quarter, we couldn't really make shots," Nowitzki said. "They kept using it in the fourth quarter and fortunately we made some shots. ... It was a gutsy win for us."
After a 3-pointer by Jason Terry and a layup by Carlos Boozer made it 71-71, Nowitzki began a 16-4 charge with a jumper at the 7:32 mark. The 7-footer added two more outside shots before capping the burst with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 87-75 with 1:52 to go.
"I just tried to be aggressive. That's what my team needed," Nowitzki said. "I missed a lot of shots in the second quarter, but I tried to keep battling."
"I think we were a little bit unlucky in the end," Kirilenko said. "We had opportunities to keep the lead. Dirk had a tremendous game and in the fourth quarter, he just killed us."
Utah trailed, 88-77, when Mehmet Okur scored six consecutive points and Kirilenko split a pair of free throws to get Utah within four with six seconds left, but Jerry Stackhouse hit two from the line to seal the victory for Dallas.
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight coming in here, playing against a well-coached team," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "That's the sign of a good team. ... We were kind of on our heels, but we kept battling. It was a gutsy performance by our team."
Already without forwards Josh Howard (strained hamstring) and Keith Van Horn (sprained knee), Dallas also lost starting guard Devin Harris with a pulled quad early in the first quarter and small forward Adrian Griffin to a hamstring injury in the final period.
"It only takes five to play, but obviously we want to get everybody back healthy and ready for the stretch run and for the playoffs," said Stackhouse, who scored 16 points off the bench. "We don't want to take our chances with guys coming in and out. We've just got to with what we have. We know we have enough to get it done."
Okur had 32 points - one shy of his career high - and 11 rebounds and Kirilenko scored 19 points for the Jazz.
Dallas (49-13) moved one game ahead of San Antonio for first place in the Southwest Division and Western Conference and within one-half game of NBA-best Detroit.
"I believe that, top to bottom, when we're healthy we have the deepest team in the league. We've got guys at every position and we're pretty versatile," Terry said.
Utah (30-32) had just two turnovers in the entire second half, but couldn't muster enough offense to reach the .500 mark.
"We got back in the ballgame, but then as we came down the stretch ... we couldn't make layups, we couldn't make open shots, and then we couldn't stop them," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I thought I had guys in there that can make the shots, but evidently we weren't able to put them down like I thought we should be able to."