DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki apparently wasn't kidding when he said an early-season game against Charlotte was a must-win for the Mavericks.
Once the big German finally found his scoring groove, he got Monta Ellis to play along.
Nowitzki scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and combined with Ellis to score Dallas' last 19 points, and the Mavericks kept the Bobcats winless in Dallas by rallying for an 89-82 victory Tuesday night.
"We were just reading one another," said Ellis, who had 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, in which Dallas outscored Charlotte 29-15. "Dirk did a great job of keeping us close, then he got us ahead, and we ran the two-man game and we just picked to see what the defense was doing."
Al Jefferson had 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker scored 16 apiece for the Bobcats, who fell to 0-10 in Dallas and 1-17 overall against the Mavericks despite leading by 12 in the third quarter.
"We've got to get more organized," said Walker, who also had seven rebounds and five assists. "We tend to stop doing what we've been doing for the first three quarters. In order to win in this league, you have to stick with what you've been doing."
The Mavericks had lost four of their previous five and trailed from late in the second quarter to the middle of the fourth before rallying to wrap up a stretch of seven home games in nine outings.
Dallas, which is 2-6 on the road, starts a four-game trip Wednesday night in New Orleans.
"We talked about it a little bit during timeouts that we needed to get things going," said Nowitzki, who was 1-of-10 from the floor in the first half. "This was a big game for us with us about to hit the road for a lot of tough games."
Nowitzki put Dallas ahead for good with a free throw to make it 79-78 after Josh McRoberts was called for a technical after getting whistled for a foul while Nowitzki was setting up with Ellis for a pick-and-roll with 3:08 left.
Ellis hit a driving layup on the same possession and then a jumper after Anthony Tolliver missed a 3-pointer. Ellis, who got his fourth quarter going with a tough baseline jumper late in the shot clock for a 78-76 lead, finished with 22 points and five assists.
Dallas was up 83-78 when Ellis jumped high for a rebound after a miss from Walker. Nowitzki hit a long jumper at the other end to turn the game into a free throw exercise.
Dallas guard Jose Calderon played after missing one game with an ankle injury and had back-to-back 3-pointers to give Dallas a 35-33 lead with 4:16 left in the first half. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from long range, and was on the floor with Nowitzki and Ellis late.
"Nowitzki and Ellis took over the game," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. "And if we would run around a double-team, they've got 3-point shooters all over."
A cold-shooting first quarter provided a preview of a sluggish offensive game in the fourth quarter, when the teams either misfired or couldn't get off a shot in 10 consecutive possessions with the Bobcats leading 73-70.
A three-minute scoreless stretch ended with three straight made shots -- two jumpers from Nowitzki over McRoberts and a bucket from Jefferson on an assist from McRoberts.
The 6-foot-10 McRoberts had three assists, including one on a running behind-the-back pass to Henderson for a fast-break dunk to cap an 11-0 run in the first half.
The Mavericks scored the first five points of the fourth quarter on a runner in the lane from Vince Carter and a 3-pointer from Nowitzki to get within 67-65.
"The turning point was at the beginning of the fourth quarter when we had a chance to extend the lead or to give it up," Clifford said.
The Bobcats went ahead by 12 with a 10-run early in the second half. Henderson had a three-point play for a 54-42 lead after making a jumper earlier, and Walker hit a 3-pointer.
The teams combined to shoot 28 percent (11-of-40) in the first quarter. ... Bobcats G Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the game in the second half with a fractured left hand. Clifford said he didn't know how long Kidd-Gilchrist would be sidelined. "It's going to be tough to make up for what he does," Clifford said.