Dirk Nowitzki's 21 points help Mavs put end to 2-game skid

ATLANTA -- Dirk Nowitzki knows the Dallas Mavericks still need to improve their rebounding.

One night after an embarrassing effort against Chicago, however, the Mavericks grabbed more boards than an Atlanta team that's routinely inconsistent on the glass.

"That was terrible yesterday, totally frustrating," Nowitzki said. "It was just a bad night. Everybody needed to respond after a game like that yesterday."

Nowitzki scored 21 points, Jason Terry added 15 and Dallas snapped a two-game skid with a 98-93 victory over the Hawks on Saturday night.

Hawks guard Joe Johnson couldn't shake Tyson Chandler's tight defense and misfired on a 3-point attempt that would've forced a tie with 2.5 seconds remaining.

Nowitzki followed with a pair of free throws to seal the victory for Dallas, which has won four of five on the road and outrebounded the Hawks 40-37.

"It was a tough back-to-back for us, coming in late at night," Nowitzki said. "We responded to a tough loss yesterday. We kind of made it a little hard on ourselves there in the second half. I felt like that was a good win against a good team at home."

The Mavericks began the game ranked 14th on the offensive boards and 16th defensively. Atlanta, which ranked ninth in defensive rebounding, was 22nd on the other end.

True to recent form, and to the dismay of coach Larry Drew, the Hawks' seven offensive boards marked the sixth time in nine games that they've had eight or fewer. That's not the kind of formula he wants with Atlanta going just 7 of 25 on 3s.

"Twenty-five 3-point shots is way too many for us," Drew said. "We settled for perimeter shots. Our movement was very slow early on. We didn't have much zip."

Al Horford finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds for the Hawks, whose two-game winning streak was snapped. Josh Smith scored 21 points and added six steals with five assists.

The Hawks, who twice trailed by 18, created some drama in the final minute.

After Atlanta's Jamal Crawford disrupted Terry's dribble at the top of the key, Smith grabbed the loose ball and fed Crawford for a layup that cut the Dallas lead to 94-93 with 15 seconds remaining.

But Terry answered 2 seconds later with a pair of free throws that made it a three-point lead, and Johnson missed the 3-pointer that could've tied it.

"I love to go up there with the game on the line, whether it's a tie game or to put the game away," Terry said. "It was a must-win for us. Now you're back feeling confident in yourself. You've learned from your mistakes."

Johnson's recent shooting woes continued with a 4 of 14 night from the field that dropped him to 34.2 percent, 10 points below his career average, over the last three games. He finished with 11 points, hitting just one of six 3-point attempts.

"We didn't come out with the energy we needed," Johnson said, "but we were able to get back in it."

The Mavs took a different approach offensively, spreading the ball around instead of relying mostly on Nowitzki, who scored 65 total points in the last two losses.

Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson each added 13. Shawn Marion scored 12 and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.

Chandler's fast-break dunk with 2:32 left in the first quarter gave Dallas its first lead at 22-21.

The Mavs' first 18-point lead came on Butler's 14-footer, which made it 53-35 late in the second quarter. Nowitzki's jumper put Dallas ahead 71-53 with 5:08 left in the third.

Rookie Jordan Crawford hit a 3 that brought Atlanta within five to close a 22-9 run with 9:27 remaining, but the Hawks never could claim the lead.

"We're trying to be the best zone team in basketball," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's challenging. We have to play to our length and experience and our knowledge of the game."

Game notes
The Mavs have won eight of 11 against Atlanta. ... Hawks F Marvin Williams (six points) and reserve G Maurice Evans (no points, 0 of 3 shooting) were game-time decisions with ailing knees. ... Dallas G Jason Kidd, who had his 104th career triple-double in the Mavs' most recent trip to Atlanta last Feb. 26, finished with nine assists, five points and two rebounds.