Nowitzki erupts for 43 points; Mavs outlast Pacers in OT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks had
an answer for every run by the Indiana Pacers.

Despite trailing by double digits in the first half, and six
points late in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks rallied to force
overtime before beating the Pacers 115-113 on Friday night.

"We've been in a lot of close games, that's what got us to the
finals last year," said Nowitzki, who scored a season-high 43
points, including three free throws in the final 5 seconds of
overtime to seal the win. "We learned last year how to close big
games out, and that's what you've got to do."

Jason Terry had 30 points, Josh Howard scored 15 and Nowitzki
grabbed 12 rebounds for the Mavericks, who improved to 16-1 in
their last 17 games and an NBA-best 30-8 overall.

Dallas' only setback since Dec. 13 was a 101-98 loss at the
Lakers on Jan. 7. The Mavericks have won three straight since then.

"This was thrilling," Terry said. "When you can come out on
an off-night defensively and still pull it out on the road, against
a tough Indiana team, that says a lot about your team."

In overtime, Danny Granger gave the Pacers a 107-105 lead with a
3-pointer, but Nowitzki came right back with a 3 of his own to put
Dallas back in front.

After the teams traded baskets, Jermaine O'Neal's layup put
Indiana ahead by a point, but again the Mavericks answered with
Terry's jumper for a 112-111 lead with 27.8 seconds remaining.

Following a miss by O'Neal on Indiana's ensuing possession,
Nowitzki made two free throws to extend the lead to three with 5.1
seconds left. Al Harrington made two free throws to pull the Pacers
to 114-113, and Nowitzki hit one free throw with 2 seconds left to
close the scoring.

The Pacers had one final chance, but Jeff Foster's long-range
pass was tipped away by Dallas defenders.

"Dirk is our MVP," Terry said. "He's been doing it for years,
and that performance was no different."

O'Neal finished with 26 points and nine rebounds, Granger and
Stephen Jackson each scored 22, and Jamaal Tinsley added 17 points
and 11 assists for the Pacers (20-17), who had their three-game
winning streak snapped.

"It's disappointing to come out on the short end because we
played hard," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "We fought hard
and we were in a position to win."

Indiana took a 99-93 lead after two free throws by Granger with
2:53 left in the fourth quarter. Dallas scored seven of the next
nine points, including a three-point play by Terry to cut the
deficit to 101-100 with less than 2 minutes left.

"I don't think that was the time to panic," Nowitzki said of
falling behind by six points. "We got some big stops and made some
big shots."

Terry's 3-pointer put the Mavericks ahead 103-101 with 36
seconds left, but Tinsley's two free throws tied the score.

On Dallas' next possession, Terry had the ball stripped away by
Tinsley on a drive to the basket, giving Indiana a shot to win the
game in regulation. However, O'Neal's jumper with less than 10
seconds remaining came up short and Granger's tip-in attempt was

"It was another brawl tonight. ... One of those old heavyweight Joe Louis, Joe Frazier-type of brawls," Mavericks coach
Avery Johnson said. "We weren't at our best tonight, but
championship-caliber teams hate to lose."

Game notes
Nowitzki rolled his right ankle late in the fourth quarter
after stepping on Harrington's foot while setting a screen.
Nowitzki went to the bench briefly, but he did return. He's
expected to play Sunday at Toronto. "It's a little sore, but I've
seen it plenty of times," he said after the game. ... Former
Pacers Anthony Johnson and Austin Croshere returned to Conseco
Fieldhouse for the first time since being traded to Dallas in the
offseason. Johnson, who received an ovation from the crowd,
finished with one point. Croshere did not play. ... The Mavericks
won their fourth straight game against Indiana. ... Dallas improved
to 9-2 against Eastern Conference teams this season, while Indiana
fell to 5-8 against the West. ... Dallas beat Indiana for the
second time in nine days, sweeping the season series.