Mavericks 106, Clippers 96
Dirk Nowitzki was ejected. A 16-point lead had dissolved into a four-point deficit. And that recent 13-game winning streak was looking like something that happened a long, long time ago.
But the Dallas Mavericks still had one thing going for them. It was Jason Kidd's 37th birthday, and he wasn't about to let the Los Angeles Clippers ruin it.
Kidd scored a season-high 26 points, most of it coming during a game-breaking spurt at the start of the fourth quarter that sent the Mavericks to a 106-96 victory over the Clippers on Tuesday night.
``Since Dirk was gone, I thought I would play Dirk today,'' said Kidd, who made 10 of 21 shots, going 6 of 11 on 3-pointers. ``I had some great looks early on that went in and out. Earlier in my career, I would've stopped shooting because I missed a couple. But I thought the team needed some scoring so I stepped up.''
Since their long winning streak, the Mavs had lost three of the last four games. They were coming off two straight losses, including a spanking in New Orleans the night before.
They came out strong, scoring 62 points in the first half and were comfortably ahead when Nowitzki didn't like a foul call against him with 9:16 left in the third quarter.
Nowitzki told official Bill Kennedy what he thought of the call. Kennedy responded by calling a technical foul, screaming, ``Bam! Right there!'' and pointing at Nowitzki. Nowitzki apparently said something else because he got hit with another technical foul and an automatic ejection.
Without their leading scorer - and on a night when Nowitzki had already scored 18 points in 19 minutes - Dallas finished the quarter trailing by a point.
``That was a bad decision by Dirk,'' Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ``It put the team in a terrible situation and he knows it was wrong. If you get a technical, you get one and make your point and you got to let it go. He is too important to us.''
To start the fourth quarter, Carlisle sent out a lineup featuring four guards and center Brendan Haywood. Then Kidd got things rolling by throwing an alley-oop pass to rookie Rodrigue Beaubois for a go-ahead dunk that brought fans to their feet. The Mavs fed off that energy to go on a 22-3 run, with Kidd doing most of the damage.
He had 13 points, three assists and a steal during that stretch. It included a pair of 3-pointers, one of them hitting the rim, the backboard, the rim again, then falling through. He finished the game with his most points since late in the 2007-2008 season, back when he was 35, along with 12 assists and six rebounds.
``He's a legend, a great player,'' Clippers guard Baron Davis said.
Said Carlisle: ``I thought he willed the team with his energy and his enthusiasm. He got guys engaged and you know, it wasn't just play-making, it was shot-making, it was assists, it was defensive plays, it was, you know, giving guys confidence out there. ... He is just phenomenal.''
Kidd was especially proud of the way the defense clamped down. Los Angeles made only 5 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter.
``We're pretty good when we do that,'' Kidd said. ``We might make or miss on the other end, but when we get stops that definitely helps us. We haven't been getting stops of late. After that little 13-game streak we had, we stopped doing that.''
This victory, and a loss by Denver, tied the Mavericks and Nuggets for the second-best record in the Western Conference.
The Clippers lost for the 10th time in 11 games, and for the 11 straight time on the road.
Drew Gooden, who started the season with Dallas and was traded to Washington in February, had a season highs of 26 points and 20 rebounds for Los Angeles.
``I still feel like they're family,'' Gooden said. ``This game meant a lot to me.''
Chris Kaman added 22 points and nine rebounds. Rasual Butler and Eric Gordon each scored 16 points, and Davis 11, but the Clippers got only five points from their bench. Four reserves went a combined 2 of 10.
``I was disappointed that our bench didn't help us,'' coach Kim Hughes said. ``I think if our bench would have performed we would have won the game.''
Jason Terry scored 14 points for Dallas, Haywood and Shawn Marion had 12 and Beaubois had 10.
NOTES: Carlisle on whether his players are waiting for the playoffs to get more focused: ``I don't think you can flip a switch. These are men, not machines.'' ... Clippers highlight? How about Gooden swishing a shot while sitting on the scorer's table during halftime. ... Kennedy also gave Kaman a technical foul in the first quarter. ... After allowing a 23-0 spurt in a loss at New Orleans on Monday night, Dallas gave up a 23-6 spurt during the third quarter.