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DALLAS (AP) – With the game slipping away against one of the NBA’s worst teams, the Dallas Mavericks turned to their reliable fourth-quarter duo of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.
Nowitzki had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Terry contributed 18 points, and the Mavericks rallied down the stretch for a 104-96 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night, giving Dallas 50 wins for the 11th straight season.
Nowitzki and Terry combined for 19 points in the final quarter, both going 4 for 7 from the field, to help the Mavs win for the third time in four games.
“Dirk said during a timeout, ‘We can’t lose this one,”‘ Terry said.
On just about every fourth-quarter possession, coach Rick Carlisle called for the pick-and-roll with Nowitzki and Terry. Dallas finished with an 11-2 run over the final 2:38.
“It’s the key to our success late in games, it’s no secret, if it’s a close game late in the fourth quarter, Coach is going to ring up our numbers and we need to answer,” Terry said. “We work extremely hard on (the pick-and-roll) in practice, and during these types of games our team needs us and that’s what clutch players do by coming up big when the team needs them most.”
Shawn Marion added 17 points, Peja Stojakovic had 16, and Tyson Chandler came up with nine points and 10 rebounds for Dallas.
Anthony Randolph had a career-high 31 points with 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who’ve lost their last five games and are without injured All-Star forward Kevin Love.
Randolph made his first start of the season in place of Love. Randolph, acquired from the Knicks in a three-team trade on Feb. 22, had a 23-point first half, 17 in the second quarter.
“We’re missing a huge part of our team without Kevin being here,” said Randolph. “I think if he was here, we definitely would have won the game.”
Dallas was in front by as many as eight in the third quarter, but the Timberwolves came back to grab a 95-93 lead with 3:17 to play on Wayne Ellington’s 22-footer.
Chandler’s three-point play with 2:38 left put Dallas back in front for good, 96-95.
Jonny Flynn hit a layup with 1:17 remaining to pull Minnesota to 98-96, but Terry’s 3-pointer with 55.6 seconds left gave Dallas some breathing room at 101-96.
“Give Minnesota credit, they really made us work, made some shots down the stretch and made us reach deep, but it was a good win and we’ll move on,” Nowitzki said.
Marion stole Flynn’s pass on Minnesota’s next possession, and Nowitzki hit two free throws with 43.5 seconds left for a 103-96 advantage to ice the victory.
“We’re a veteran team that knows how to win,” Carlisle said. “Persistence has to be our calling card.”
Dallas fans have grown accustomed to 50-win seasons, which Carlisle credited to owner Mark Cuban.
“It’s more about the commitment Mark has made, that there have been good players and Mark has surrounded Dirk with good players,” Carlisle said.
Now the Mavericks need a better showing in the playoffs, where they were eliminated in the first round by San Antonio last season.
“It (50 wins) is nice, but I’d rather trade them in for a championship,” said Nowitzki. “Fifty-win seasons don’t mean nothing.”
Stojakovic came off the bench to score seven points during a 13-4 second-quarter run, and the Mavs held a slender 49-47 edge at the break.
Before the game, Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said there’s a chance Love could miss the rest of the season with a strained left groin.
“There is an outside chance, I don’t know how great that chance is,” Rambis said. “Obviously, with hamstring or groin injuries, you want to be cautious with them because they can linger for a long period of time, and we don’t want that to happen with Kevin.”
Love, averaging 20.3 points and an NBA-best 15.4 rebounds per game, didn’t travel with the team after sustaining the injury in Minnesota’s previous game, a 127-95 home loss to Sacramento on Sunday.
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