Nowitzki leads Dallas to OT win
The Dallas Mavericks finally have a win over one of the top four teams headed to the Western Conference playoffs - just in time for their own postseason push.
Dirk Nowitzki had a season-high 33 points, including the first eight for Dallas in overtime, and the Mavericks moved within a game of .500 for the first time since mid-December with a 109-102 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.
More importantly for the Mavericks, they're just a game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the West with 11 games remaining. They've won nine of their past 12 and improved to 1-11 against the top four teams in the West.
''We've fought an uphill battle all season long,'' said Nowitzki, who also led Dallas with nine rebounds. ''Honestly, we're playing the best basketball we have all season. So we gotta keep this momentum going.''
Chris Paul matched Nowitzki with 33 - also his season high - but the Clippers went more than 4 minutes without a field goal in overtime after Paul put them ahead 42 seconds into the extra period.
The game went to overtime after a wild final 5 seconds in regulation starting with a go-ahead layup by Paul. O.J. Mayo answered when he slipped the ball in from behind the backboard to tie the score at 97-all with 0.6 seconds left.
With coach Vinny Del Negro signaling for a timeout, the Clippers threw it in anyway. Blake Griffin caught the long pass in the lane and flipped the ball in the basket in one motion, but was called for an offensive foul for pushing Nowitzki while the pass was in the air. Dallas got the ball back but was 70 feet from the basket and couldn't get a shot off.
''Those are tough calls,'' said Del Negro, whose team lost the opener of a four-game road trip that makes three stops in Texas. ''I have to look at it. That wasn't the difference. They made some tough shots and we weren't able to convert on a couple of plays down the stretch.''
Nowitzki put Dallas ahead for good at 101-100 on a jumper, and the Clippers missed their next seven shots. The only point over a stretch of 4:10 was a free throw by DeAndre Jordan, who had 11 rebounds.
Matt Barnes had a chance to tie it on a wide-open 3-pointer with Dallas leading 103-100 with 22 seconds left, but he shot an air ball.
''It was grit and guts,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ''It was like Russian roulette out there because when you go chasing Chris Paul around you leave a lot of guys open for shots. So, we gambled and won.''
A game-time decision because of a sore left knee, Paul was strong from start to finish. He had 10 points in the first quarter and scored the last 10 of regulation and the first two of overtime.
In the final minute of regulation, Vince Carter put Dallas ahead with two free throws before Paul answered quickly. After a turnover by Carter, Paul hit a tough layup on the baseline, setting up Mayo's tying bucket.
''I have to play better defense,'' Paul said. ''I let (Mayo) get a layup. We have to make them beat us tougher than that.''
Griffin and Caron Butler had 14 apiece for Los Angeles, and DeAndre Jordan had 11 rebounds.
Mayo finished with 11, while Carter had 14, and Darren Collison 13. Dallas had six players in double figures.
The Mavericks led 90-89 when Paul fell after a jumper and Mike James was called for a technical after picking up his fifth foul for getting under Paul, who slightly turned his ankle on James' foot. Paul hit two of the three free throws, then had a jumper after a Dallas miss for a 93-90 lead.
Dallas got even at 93-93 when Mayo converted a three-point play after getting fouled by Paul on a jumper in the lane.
Lamar Odom was booed loudly when he entered and every time he touched the ball in his first trip to Dallas since a disastrous 2011-12 season with the Mavericks. He was so unhappy, they put him on the inactive list late in the year even though they were fighting for playoff survival. He averaged a career-worst 6.6 points for Dallas, but is setting a new low at 4.1 per game in his return to the Clippers, his first team.
Even when he wasn't playing, Odom kept showing up on the big video screens above the court, drawing more boos. He almost matched his season average with four points in the second quarter and finished with six points and six rebounds.
''I've played in really hostile environments all my life,'' Odom said. ''You got to expect that. That's what we love about sports.''
NOTES: James led the Mavericks with 19 points in Sunday's win over Utah. It was the highest point total in more than four years for the 11-year veteran. ... Nowitzki passed Patrick Ewing for 17th on the all-time scoring list in the first quarter. Ewing had 24,815 points. ... Griffin got a technical foul during a time out with 7 seconds left in third quarter, and Collison made a free throw to break a 73-all tie entering the fourth. ... Jamal Crawford got a technical after hitting a shot early in the fourth quarter and complaining that no foul was called.