Rapid Reaction: Mavs 96, Clippers 92

How it happened: The Clippers got a taste of what some of the other Western Conference contenders experienced during the playoffs last season. They were on the business end of a Mavericks close-out.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 11 of his 22 points in the final 6:03, but defense was the primary reason the Mavs pulled out this win.

The Mavs held the Clippers to nine points and three field goals in the final six minutes. Shawn Marion spearheaded the phenomenal defensive effort.

Marion guarded Clippers star point guard Chris Paul (16 points, nine assists) for much of the game, including the final 5:13. Paul had only one basket -- a falling-away 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining -- and one assist in that final stretch.

Marion made two huge plays in the final two minutes as a help defender: a steal of a Blake Griffin pass and a block of a Kenyon Martin layup attempt.

The Mavs also benefited from a little luck in the last minute. A turnover led to an open transition 3-point attempt by Caron Butler. But the ex-Maverick, who received his championship ring in a touching pregame ceremony, missed the potential go-ahead shot with three seconds remaining.

What it means: The Mavs have started off one of the toughest stretches of their schedule, in terms of quality of competition, with four consecutive wins. The Clippers went 4-2 on their road trip.

Play of the game: Vince Carter offered a reminder that Griffin wasn’t the only dunk contest champion in the house, and Randy Foye was on the wrong end of the reminder. After catching the ball in the post and facing up, Carter went right to blow by Foye on the baseline, took off at the charge circle and threw down a sweet one-handed slam on the other side of the rim.

Stat of the night: This was the first time the Mavs have won a game they trailed after three quarters this season. The Mavs, who were only down two entering the fourth, were 0-9 in such games.