Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 81, Pacers 73

The Dallas Mavericks pulled off a major upset in their final game before the All-Star break, fighting off the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers for an 81-73 win.

How it happened: The Mavs followed up one of their worst defensive performances of the season with their best.

A night after allowing the Charlotte Bobcats to score 114 points, the Mavs held the Pacers to 73 points on 32.1 percent shooting. Dallas didn’t exactly light it up offensively, either, shooting only 35.7 percent from the floor, but the Mavs can be especially proud of this win because it wasn’t pretty.

The Mavs, a team full of finesse players, went elbow for elbow with the NBA’s most physical team and walked out of their gym with the win.

The Pacers, particularly power forward David West, tried unsuccessfully to intimidate the Mavs. West got a technical foul in the final minute of the first half after getting in Dirk Nowitzki’s face. That’s a bitter individual rivalry that dates to West’s days with the New Orleans Hornets, best remembered by West mockingly caressing Nowitzki’s face during the Hornets’ first-round series win over the Mavs in 2008.

Nowitzki’s response this time? He shoved back at West and nailed a high-degree-of-difficulty, one-legged, step-back jumper on the possession after the timeout called to calm things down.

Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. Nowitzki added 18 points.

The Mavs took the lead for good with an 8-0 run that started with a jumper by Brandan Wright with 5:19 remaining. Wright had two buckets during that spurt. He scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds in the fourth quarter after playing only 44 seconds in the first three frames.

But Dallas’ defense was the story in this game. With Shawn Marion on him most of the game, Pacers superstar Paul George scored only 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting. The Mavs held the Pacers to 11 points in the fourth quarter.

What it means: The Mavs head into the All-Star break on a high note. They have won six of seven games and bounced back from Tuesday night’s blowout loss in Charlotte by handing the Pacers only their third home loss of the season. The Pacers dropped to 40-12, matching the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fewest losses in the league. The Mavs improved to 32-22, which could have them sitting alone in sixth place in the West standings if the Golden State Warriors lose their late game to the Miami Heat.

Play of the game: Vince Carter beat Danny Granger on a backdoor cut to get an inbounds pass, drew a couple of defenders and dished to Wright for the uncontested dunk. That gave the Mavs a 65-62 lead with less than nine minutes to play.

Stat of the night: The Pacers’ 73 points were the fewest allowed by the Mavs since a Feb. 20, 2012, win over the Boston Celtics.