SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Don't write the obituary just yet for the Dallas Mavericks. Their quest for a 13th straight playoff berth is still alive, even if it remains on life support.
The Mavericks (37-39) used a 41-point second quarter to gain control of a game they desperately needed. They remained three games behind the Lakers in the chase for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
"We're playing game to game and trying to win every one and give ourselves a chance," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "This is a prideful group of guys. We want to finish this season on an uptick."
Dallas has made the playoffs 12 straight seasons dating to 1999-2000, which was Dirk Nowitzki's second season.
Just getting back into the playoff hunt has been a major effort for Dallas. The Mavericks had an 11-10 record after beating the Kings on Dec. 10. But over the next month, they dropped 13 of 15 games, and they had a 13-23 record on Feb. 9.
The Mavericks' four-game road trip got off to a rough start Tuesday with a 20-point loss to the Lakers. But a 95-94 loss Thursday night in Denver felt even worse than the lopsided defeat.
"We had to (forget). That's the NBA," Marion said. "That's what being a pro is all about. We had to put last night behind us."
Marion did his part, making 10 of 17 shots, including his lone 3-point attempt, and converted all four free throw attempts.
The Mavericks shot 51 percent, scored 99 points over the last three quarters, had 30 assists and made all 19 free throws.
"We were moving the ball, and everyone was looking for each other," Marion said. "We were making that extra pass all game."
Dallas, which trailed 27-18 after the first quarter, swept all four games from the Kings this season and has defeated Sacramento in 15 of the past 16 meetings.
"When you're dealing with a team like Dallas, they just have so many know-how guys that are going to hurt you no matter what," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "We've had a hard time with this team all year. They have done a number on us no matter how we've tried to play them."
The slender Wright was a factor at both ends of the court. He shot 9-of-14, had six rebounds and blocked two shots.
"It's always good to get a win after a tough loss like last night," Wright said. "We put up 99 points in the last three quarters. You can't ask for much better than that."
Cousins, who has had verbal battles with Smart this season, entered the game at the start of the second quarter and finished with six points in nine minutes. He had started all 68 games he played this season.
"Am I surprised? Not at all," said Cousins, who said he found out at the morning shootaround. "It was his decision. He doesn't have to give me a reason; he's the coach."
And if Smart had a reason, he wasn't saying.
"I decided to go with the guys I had on the floor," Smart said. "There's no details and there's nothing behind it. I went with the guys that I thought at that particular time would give us what I was looking for with that team."
Vince Carter passed off to Wright early in second quarter for his 4,000th career assist. Carter, who had six assists in the first half, became the 15th player in NBA history to amass 22,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists.
Carter, who had seven points and tied a season high with eight assists, said he had no idea he had entered such a select group.
"That's an honor. I'm not sure who is in the group, but I'm sure it's a lot of Hall of Famers," Carter said. "To get a milestone like that, it's a shock. To do that when we get a win is a great feeling."
Trailing by nine points entering the fourth quarter, the Kings went on a quick 9-2 run to close the gap to 94-90. After a timeout, the Mavericks responded, running off nine straight points for a 103-90 lead with 8:27 left.
"We were fine; we knew they were going to make a run," Wright said. "We did the things we needed to do to get this win."
After a huge second-quarter output, the Mavericks followed up with a strong third quarter. Marion scored mostly from close range on floaters and had 13 points in the third when the Mavericks built their lead to 92-81.
Nowitzki scored nine of his 11 first-half points in the second quarter, when the Mavericks outscored the Kings 41-26. Collison also had nine points in the second for Dallas, which took a 59-53 lead into the half.
Thomas had 15 points, Evans scored 11, and Thompson had nine points and 11 rebounds in the opening half for the Kings.
Kings forward John Salmons made a 3-pointer in the first quarter to break out of an extended scoreless streak. He had zero points in 38 minutes Wednesday against Houston and finished with three points in 25 minutes against Dallas. Thomas ended the first quarter with a 15-foot floater at the buzzer that gave the Kings a 27-18 lead. Mavericks veteran forward Elton Brand missed his second straight game with a sore right calf that has bothered him all week. The Kings have lost four straight at home, where they own a 19-19 record.