Nowitzki's 21 points help Mavs whip Wolves for first win of season

MINNEAPOLIS -- This time, the Dallas Mavericks didn't need Dirk Nowitzki to have a big fourth quarter to win. A rainbow jumper, a drawn foul, and a couple of key free throws did the trick -- and the bench did the rest.

Nowitzki had 21 points, Jason Terry added 19, and the Mavericks picked up their first victory of the season, 95-85 over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

Just as in their season-opening loss to Houston, Nowitzki, Terry and Josh Howard provided the bulk of the Mavericks' offense for the first three quarters before going mostly silent in the fourth. The three combined for seven points in the period, but the Mavericks bench picked up the slack.

"Those guys earned the minutes in the fourth quarter. They were playing well and getting the job done," said Rick Carlisle, who picked up his first victory as Mavericks coach.

Brandon Bass and former Timberwolves guard Gerald Green provided key baskets down the stretch to help Dallas pull away. Green scored seven of his nine points in the final quarter and Bass added six.

"That is key for a good team, to have the bench to rely on when everything isn't clicking with the starters," Bass said. "I think we did that tonight.

Howard had 12 of his 14 points in the first half for the Mavs, who have won nine straight over the Timberwolves.

The Wolves were within two early in the fourth quarter before Bass and Green keyed a 13-4 run, and Minnesota never really recovered.

Nowitzki's rainbow jumper with 2:27 left gave Dallas a seven-point lead before Randy Foye hit two free throws to pull Minnesota to 90-85 10 seconds later. The Wolves had two more chances to cut into the lead, but Al Jefferson was stripped by Jason Kidd on one possession and called for a foul on the next. Nowitzki hit two foul shots with 27 seconds to essentially seal it.

"We know in basketball you can't win games with one or two guys, teams are too good now in this league," Nowitzki said. "You have to have everyone playing at a high level."

Rashad McCants led Minnesota with 18 points while Jefferson scored 14 and grabbed 12 rebounds.

"It's just a matter of trusting at both ends of the floor," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "And when we do that, we're pretty good. And when we don't, we look really, really bad."

The Mavericks outscored Minnesota 13-0 early in the first quarter, forcing the younger, less-experienced Wolves to play catch-up for most of the game.

The Wolves steadily climbed their way back into the game by forcing the fast-tempo Mavericks into a half-court offense and outworking their opponents in the paint.

Starting late in the first quarter, Minnesota scored 36 straight points either from the paint or the free throw line.

"In the half court we did a good job, then in transition, that's where we lost the game," Ryan Gomes said.

Game notes
Wolves G Mike Miller, signed to be Minnesota's main perimeter threat, hit his first 3-pointer of the season. Miller is 1-for-6 from the arc so far in two games. "Mike needs to stay aggressive and pull the trigger when he's open," Wittman said. ... The Mavericks have started 0-2 just once in the last 14 years (2006-07, when they went on to win a franchise-best 67 games and earn the top seed in the West). ... Dallas assistant and former Wolves head coach Dwane Casey returned to Minnesota for the first time since being fired midway through the 2006-07 season. Casey still has some personal ties to the area -- he's still trying to sell his downtown Minneapolis condo, which Jefferson rented last year before signing his current deal with the Wolves.