Bobcats lead first half in loss to Mavericks

DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks don’t care about style points at the moment. Any victory is welcome for the defending NBA champs.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and the Mavericks rallied from 14 points down in the second quarter to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 101-96 on Thursday night.

Dallas won its second straight — improving to 15-0 all-time against the Bobcats — although the victories have come against lottery-bound Washington and Charlotte. Jason Terry added 18 points and Rodrigue Beaubois 14 for the Mavs, who had lost eight of their previous 11.

“The most important thing is to come out of it with a win,” said Dallas’ Vince Carter, who finished with 11 points. “When we’re playing against a better basketball team, we’ll have to be better.”

Corey Maggette scored 21 points and Tyrus Thomas had 14 for the league-worst Bobcats (6-36).

The upcoming schedule gets a lot more challenging for the Mavs, who face playoff contenders in their next 10 games starting with Saturday night’s home date against San Antonio.

“It’s two (straight) wins and we’re doing good things, but if you look at our schedule, it gets significantly more difficult,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

After trailing most of the first half, Dallas took control with a third-quarter surge led by consecutive 3-pointers from Nowitzki.

Nowitzki scored eight straight points while his team was on a 17-8 run capped by Carter’s 3-pointer, giving Dallas a 74-68 edge entering the final quarter.

The Mavs turned up the defensive pressure in the third with the second unit on the floor for much of the 12 minutes, going to a zone and limiting Charlotte to 5-for-21 shooting from the field.

“We played as well as we could play,” Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. “The third quarter gives us problems. They put a zone on us and we couldn’t make a shot.”

Beaubois connected on consecutive layups early in the fourth to stretch Dallas’ lead to 83-72, and Nowitzki’s 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Mavs a 14-point lead with 6:41 to play.

Charlotte was behind by 17 before pulling to 99-96 on D.J. Augustin’s layup with 19 seconds left. But Nowitzki converted two free throws on his team’s next possession to clinch the victory.

Charlotte tied the score at 23-all after one quarter when Augustin banked in a desperation 3 from the right wing just ahead of the buzzer.

Rookie Kemba Walker scored eight of his 12 points — including two 3-pointers — during his team’s 14-2 spurt midway through the second quarter as the Bobcats built a 42-32 lead.

“We are probably the oldest starting lineup in the history of the league so we’ve got to hype ourselves up a little more and get a little more pep in our step to start the game,” Nowitzki said of his team’s slow start. “We let them hang on and they got some confidence.”

Charlotte’s halftime advantage was 54-48 after Dallas finished the second quarter with a 9-2 run.

Once again, the third quarter proved the Bobcats’ undoing. Walker said his team was simply too passive against Dallas’ zone.

“We didn’t penetrate enough, didn’t put a man in the middle enough and we weren’t cutting,” Walker said. “We were just standing.”

NOTES: Dallas C Brendan Haywood left with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter with a sprained right knee and did not return. Carlisle said the injury didn’t appear to be serious. … Neither team made a move ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. Carlisle wasn’t anticipating any deals, saying before the game, “I didn’t think there were going to be any trades so I’m not surprised…and we’re fine with it.” There were some anxious players in the Dallas locker room earlier this week as the deadline loomed, and Carlisle said, “If (a lack of trade activity) eases anybody’s mind, that’s great.” … Charlotte F Eduardo Najera was back in the rotation after missing two games with right knee inflammation, scoring four points in 16 minutes. … The teams met for the only time this season. … The Bobcats have wins against every NBA team but the Mavericks.