Dirk Nowitzki said he wanted more help from his Dallas teammates. Jason Terry and Josh Howard answered the call in a big way on Saturday.
Nowitzki scored 20 points over the first three quarters in his first game since grumbling about his teammates deferring to him too much, then watched Terry and Howard carry the Mavericks the rest of the way in a 106-101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"Josh was aggressive, making plays there in the fourth and Jet was on fire there late, so it was fun to watch," Nowitzki said.
Terry scored 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, and Howard had eight of his 11, to make sure the Mavericks got a split of their four-game homestand.
Their contributions were especially important because Nowitzki failed to score in the final quarter, missing his only two shots.
"We know Dirk is our leader, but every night he's not going to have it so other guys have to step up," said Erick Dampier, who chipped in with 13 points and 10 rebounds. "We played together, shared the ball, had fun and were victorious."
Dallas actually eased the load on Nowitzki the entire game, putting a total of seven players in double figures. The rest of the key contributors: Jason Kidd with 10 points and 10 assists, J.J. Barea with 11 points and Shawn Marion with 10.
"That's the way this team was built," Terry said. "That hasn't been there for us this season, but we know in the near future it's going to be there and be consistent. ... Hopefully this is the one we look back on and say, 'Hey ... that's the blueprint."'
Elsewhere in the NBA it was: Chicago 96 New Orleans 85; Houston 98 New Jersey 93; Atlanta 110 Indiana 98; Minnesota 101 Washington 89; Oklahoma City 98 Charlotte 91; San Antonio 112 Milwaukee 97; Utah 97 Philadelphia 76; L.A. Lakers 112 Sacramento 103 (2OT); and Golden State 132 Phoenix 127.
At Dallas, the Mavericks are headed out for a four-game road trip that starts in Denver (against the team that ousted the Mavs from last year's playoffs) and ends in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
Terry pointed out that for all the emphasis on Dallas' scoring, the club's biggest improvement this season is on defence. It sure didn't look that way at the start of this game, with Zach Randolph facing little resistance around the basket.
Randolph made nine straight shots and scored 21 of Memphis' first 39 points, helping the Grizzlies go ahead by 10. Finally, the Mavericks started double-teaming him and things began to change.
Randolph went without a field goal - and only took about three shots - from 9:42 of the second quarter to 9:43 of the fourth. By then, Dallas had taken control.
Nowitzki powered a 14-3 run early in the third quarter that lifted the Mavs from trailing by four to leading by seven. The Grizzlies never went back ahead, but they did get within 97-96 with 2:20 left.
Dallas answered with a layup by Dampier off a nice pass from Nowitzki. Terry made four free throws in the final 20.6 to polish off a win that avenged a 16-point loss in Memphis earlier this month. The Mavericks had lost to them three straight.
Randolph finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Rudy Gay had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Memphis ended a three-game winning streak and Randolph ended a two-game run of scoring in the 30s.
"We stopped doing what we were doing that got us the lead," Randolph said. "We needed to attack the basket more. It's real frustrating. It was a tough game. We need to make smarter plays, move the ball, play a little more together at the end of the game. If we do that, we'll be OK."
O.J. Mayo scored 18 points, but was 4-of-14 and had four turnovers, including one shortly after Dampier's basket that left Memphis down by three.
Marc Gasol added 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Sam Young scored 11 points.
Nowitzki, still playing with a huge bandage on his shooting elbow because of a gruesome injury last week, was 10-of-16 but wasn't as aggressive as usual. For instance, he didn't shoot a free throw for the first time since Dec. 8, 2007. He also had four turnovers.
Bulls 96 Hornets 85
At Chicago, Tyrus Thomas returned from injury to score 21 points and Joakim Noah added 17 points and 18 rebounds as the Bulls capped an eventful week with a win over New Orleans.
Thomas, back after missing 22 games with a broken left forearm, was active from the moment he entered to a nice ovation 3:09 into the game.
He finished 10-for-17 from the floor and also had nine rebounds.