Nowitzki leads Mavs to 7th straight win
DALLAS: The way the Dallas Mavericks got started, it seemed like Dirk Nowitzki might get a welcome rest late in the opener of a two-game stretch in less than 24 hours.
Except rookie Darren Collison and the New Orleans Hornets turned a lopsided game into a nailbiter before Nowitzki helped bail out the Mavericks.
Nowitzki scored 14 of his 36 points while playing all of the fourth quarter, including a 9-foot turnaround jumper after a turnover by Collison in the final minute, and the Mavericks pulled out a 108-100 victory Sunday night to extend their NBA-high winning streak to seven games.
"We made this a lot harder than we should have," said Nowitzki, who had his third consecutive 30-point game. "I actually missed two shots toward the end that I felt should have gone in, but I was able to make that last shot, so I'm happy about that."
The Hornets had cut what had been a 25-point deficit to 101-97 after Collison's 3-pointer with 2:44 left capped the rookie's stretch of eight consecutive points. But New Orleans didn't get any closer and Collison, who had a season-high 35 points, had consecutive turnovers in the final minute that Dallas turned into baskets.
Nowitzki's jumper was the first score for either team since Collison's 3-pointer. Caron Butler then stole the ball from Collison near midcourt and drove to the basket, missing the layup that Brendan Haywood slammed home.
"It was out of aggression, trying to make something happen," Collison said. "I'll take full responsibility for those two turnovers."
Butler had 19 points in his return to the Mavericks lineup. He played in his sixth game for Dallas since being traded from Washington, but had missed the last two after having a bad reaction to some medication.
The Mavericks took control with a 31-6 run early and appeared to have the luxury of a lopsided game to start their back-to-back games. Their game Monday night at Charlotte starts 21 1/2 hours after Sunday's game tipped off.
But Collison, stepping up in the absence of All-Star guard Chris Paul (left knee injury), helped made it a tight game at the end before his miscues.
New Orleans was within 86-77 after David West hit two free throws in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, closing the gap to under 10 for the first time since last in the first quarter.
That 19-3 run for New Orleans came during an 8-minute shooting slump for Dallas, who missed 12 consecutive field goals but where still shooting 55 percent for the game at that point. The Mavericks finished 52 percent from the field (45 of 87).
Jason Terry ended the Mavericks' shooting slump with an 18-footer. West then traveled and Terry passed to Nowitzki for another 18-footer.
"You're going to get sloppy at times. Don't forget (New Orleans) I think 12 times this year has come back from double digits to win. We knew that," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Those two young kids are energetic. They've got a lot of fight in them."
Marcus Thornton, Collison's fellow rookie, added 21 points for the Hornets. Peja Stojakovic had 16 points and Emeka Okafor had a season-high 17 rebounds. Two nights after scoring 40 points, West was held to 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Jason Kidd had 13 points and passed Maurice Cheeks for fourth on the NBA career list with his 2,311th steal. Kidd had 10 of his points in the first quarter.
After Stojakovic hit a 3-pointer that got New Orleans with 92-86 with just more than 7 minutes left, Nowitzki hit a 13-foot fadeaway shot from the baseline. Then after West got blocked on consecutive shots by Haywood before the shot clock expired, Nowitzki hit a 14-footer and then made the free throw after Hornets coach Jeff Bower got a technical foul.
Collison put the Hornets up 20-16 with a 7-foot running jumper with 5:22 left in the first quarter. Nowitzki then drove for a layup that ignited the 31-6 run over a nearly 8-minute span. Shawn Marion's layup made it 47-26 with 9:14 left in the first half.
"We would have loved to have had more rest in the fourth quarter, but we screwed that up," Nowitzki said. "Back-to-backs are part of the NBA and this is one of the tougher ones for us this season."
NOTES: The last time Nowitzki had three consecutive 30-points games was February 2008. ... Dallas played the eighth of 14 games in a 23-day span out of the All-Star break. ... New Orleans is 6-8 without Paul. Bower said Paul is still out "indefinitely" but is making encouraging progress. ... The last seven-game winning streak for Dallas was two seasons ago.