How it happened: It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. But hey, the banged-up Mavericks aren't playing for a BCS ranking.
The Mavs are simply trying to survive as long as leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki remains tethered to the bench in a suit. Nowitzki missed his fifth consecutive game with a right knee strain and to make matters much worse, the Mavs found out earlier Tuesday that Caron Butler is expected to miss the rest of the season after he had surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee.
So, Dallas will take the 84-81 victory and move on to Thursday’s home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder and hope Nowitzki is ready to go. The Thunder won't be happy after losing the first two meetings in Oklahoma City, the last one with Nowitzki in the locker room for much of the last three quarters hoping for a negative X-ray (which he got).
The Mavs (26-8) got balanced scoring, and just enough of it. Jason Terry turned in his usual fourth-quarter magic with 12 of his 18 points coming in the period. He hit 5-of-8 shots, including a bevy of big ones down the stretch. DeShawn Stevenson continued to supply a scoring punch during the injury crisis with 18 points and four more 3-pointers.
Tyson Chandler had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds and J.J. Barea brought a spark with 10 points and three assists.
It wasn't pretty and it wasn't easy, either. Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge followed up his 35-point performance here a couple weeks ago with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Camby had 10 points and 20 rebounds.
In the end, Terry's finale and some stingy defense that limited Portland to 41.8 percent shooting, including 25 percent from beyond the arc, got the job done.
Dallas trailed 77-72 with 4:26 to go but then held the Blazers (18-17) without a point until the 1:13 mark. Stevenson then buried a huge 3-pointer and Terry hit a jumper to seal the much-needed win.
What it means: The Mavs could barely make up any ground on the San Antonio Spurs during their stretch of 12 consecutive wins and 17 of 18, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that they made up a full game Tuesday night with Nowitzki and Butler out of the lineup. But that’s what happened as the Spurs lost at New York, 128-115, to pull Dallas to within three games in the standings. In the process, the Mavs snapped a two-game home skid and moved to 2-3 without Nowitzki, having won two in a row.
Play of the game: Stevenson again showed why he is the best 3-point shooter on the team and in the top five of the league. He drained four more Tuesday night, including the biggest one with 51.5 seconds left to give the Mavs an 82-78 lead. Stevenson was scoreless in the quarter until he made the shot that gave Dallas just enough breathing room to close out the victory.
Stat of the night: Give Brendan Haywood ample credit in the center position almost reaching its goal of 20 points and 20 rebounds. Haywood came through with eight points and six rebounds in just 13 minutes. Together, Haywood and Chandler put up 22 points and 19 rebounds while trying to limit damage by Aldridge and Camby.