Nowitzki scored 25 points and the Mavericks snapped a three-game skid by beating the undermanned Denver Nuggets 105-95 on Wednesday night. It was also Dallas' first victory in five tries against the Nuggets.
"A win. A much needed win," Nowitzki said. "We worked hard the last three games in our preparation, trying to keep them out of the lane, trying not to let them get into transition. I liked some of the stuff that we did. We rebounded the ball well. We outrebounded them (46-38) on the road, and that is definitely a plus when we do that."
"If you make a defensive mistake, they have a way of punishing you," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I'm not saying we had a bad defensive game, but three or four times we're scrambling and we leave Dirk Nowitzki wide open. I don't understand that, but when you're frustrated and playing in a bad stretch those things happen. I just think it's the process of the season. We're banged up."
Rudy Fernandez and Al Harrington each had 17 points off the bench to lead the Nuggets, who lost their fourth straight. Nene had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Ty Lawson had 16 points along with 10 assists for Denver.
Arron Afflalo (left ankle) and Nene (left heel) returned to the Nuggets' lineup after sitting out Monday night's loss to Houston, but Denver was still without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (left ankle), along with Timofey Mozgov (left ankle). Corey Brewer took a leave of absence to be with his family this week following the death of his father.
Dallas was without Jason Kidd, who missed his sixth game because of a strained right calf. He remains day to day.
"We play better when we push the ball, when we run, but we didn't see a lot of fastbreaks today and in our last four games," Fernandez said. "In the second half, we're down by eight, and on our faces, it was like we were down by 20. We have to fight for 48 minutes."
Fernandez conceded it's difficult to maintain the Nuggets' up-tempo style while missing key players.
"But it's no excuse," he said. "We have a lot of young talent and a lot of players with experience. We have a long bench and at this moment with the injuries, we have to find a way to play better and more aggressively."
Dallas took that very approach to finally beat Denver.
Carter hit successive 3-pointers, putting Dallas up 81-64 with 6:08 left in the third quarter. Denver, though, outscored the Mavericks 12-4 heading into the fourth quarter, pulling to within 87-78.
Afflalo made a basket for the Nuggets to start the final period, but the Mavericks responded with a layup by Brandan Wright and a jumper by Nowitzki and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
"This game was about our approach and attitude," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "One of the big challenges tonight was to sustain our first half effort and we did that. The second half was terrific and a lot of guys contributed."
The Mavericks led by as many as 17 in the second quarter, but settled for a 64-53 advantage at halftime. The Nuggets closed the gap by scoring nine of the last 13 points in the second quarter, including a pair of baskets by Fernandez.
Dallas was in front 33-25 after the first period and pulled out to a 58-41 lead after Carter hit a baseline jumper with 3:57 left in the second quarter. The surge was fueled in part by a 10-2 burst by Dallas earlier in the second quarter that included a breakaway dunk by Wright.
Dallas' 64 first-half points were two off its season high and a season high by a Nuggets opponent. ... Marion is the only Mavericks player to start all 26 games. ... Denver was held under 100 points for the 12th time this season and dropped to 4-8 in those games. ... Chris Andersen made his first start of the season for Denver in place of the injured Mozgov. ... Nowitzki has scored 25 or more points 437 times in his career. ... Denver also has lost four consecutive homes games for the first time since April 2-16, 2003.