The journeyman point guard scored 12 points in the third quarter, including seven in a 20-2 run which bridged the third and fourth quarters.
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"I'm like a little kid in the candy store," James said. "People don't understand how much fun I'm having out there."
The 11th-year point guard is probably enjoying himself more now considering he didn't even have an NBA job three months ago. James joined Dallas on a 10-day contract on Jan. 8, and the Mavericks signed him for the rest of season three weeks later.
Rick Carlisle inserted James into the starting lineup on March 6, and the Mavericks have gone 8-3 since then to get within two games of the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"Because people say I can't play this game anymore, I'm out there having a great time," said James, who has played with 10 different teams.
Vince Carter and Shawn Marion each had 15 points as the Mavericks improved to 2-1 on a season-long six-game homestand. Dallas has gone 21-13 since dropping 10 games under .500 on Jan. 9.
"(This season) has been so up and down," Mavericks center Elton Brand said. "It's been a roller coaster."
Enes Kanter scored 17 points as the Jazz lost their ninth straight on the road, Utah's longest such skid since losing 17 in a row away from home during the 1981-82 season. The Jazz's last road win was Feb. 13 at Minnesota.
"We can't get the games back that we lost," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We need to learn lessons from it. But we have to find a way to get better."
Dallas had a one-point edge at halftime and the teams exchanged the lead 12 times in the third. The game was tied at 69 midway through the third before Dallas surged ahead for good.
James hit a 3-pointer to put Dallas in front 74-69. He connected on two free throws and short jumper to close the third, stretching the Mavericks' lead to 83-71.
Carter made a difficult layup and Marion hit a free throw to cap the 20-2 run which gave Dallas an 89-71 advantage with 9:55 left.
The Mavericks led 104-87 with 3:12 left before the Jazz went on a 21-7 run over the next 3 minutes. Gordon Hayward's three-point play brought Utah to 111-108 with 7.3 seconds left.
James hit 7 of 10 shots from the floor, including three 3-pointers. Darren Collison had 13 points for the Dallas, which shot 54.3 percent from the field.
James fell just short of his first 20-game performance since Jan. 14, 2009 against the New York Knicks.
"Mike James played great," Brand said. "He's been very good since he's been here for us."
Utah's Paul Millsap had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Hayward chipped in with 13 points.
Utah has lost four in a row and 12 of 15 overall. The Jazz dropped two games behind the Lakers -- and even with Dallas -- for the last playoff spot in the conference.
"I think we're just losing focus," Kanter said. "We'll just have to work on it and stick together."
Al Jefferson scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter to help the Jazz take a 27-24 lead.
Mo Williams hit a 3-pointer and a 20-footer to start a 9-2 run that gave Utah a 42-35 advantage, its largest of the first half.
Late in the second quarter, Dallas took its first lead since early in the first half on Nowitzki's jumper over Jefferson. Nowitzki ended the first half with a fadeaway over Millsap, putting Dallas up 53-52 at halftime.
Utah plays eight of its next 10 at home, starting Monday night against Philadelphia. ... The Mavericks have won 19 of their last 22 against the Jazz in Dallas.
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DALLAS, TX - MARCH 24: Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots a jumper against Paul Millsap #24 of the...
MVP: Mike James. The aging guard had an excellent performance at the point. His numbers weren't jaw-dropping, but he got to the basket efficiently, distributed well, and was able to break through in the Mavs' defining second-half run.
Defining moment: After a seesaw first half, both teams turned up the heat on defense. While the veteran Mavs found ways to the rim, the Jazz simply could not score: A third-quarter 69-69 tie exploded into a fourth-quarter 98-77 lead.
X factor: Let's give this to Utah's DeMarre Carroll for giving Utah an improbable chance to recover from its blowout deficit. Playing the press with immaculate execution and energy, Carroll nearly helped the Jazz steal one.