Dirk Nowitzki nearly did enough in the second half to beat the 76ers on his own.
Nowitzki scored 24 points after halftime, matching Philadelphia's total, and the Dallas Mavericks erased a 15-point deficit to beat the Sixers 82-75 on Friday night.
Nowitzki finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds, but he took over early in the third, knocking down shots from awkward angles and sinking the type of clutch shots worthy of the star player on the defending NBA champions. His five baskets in the third quarter were one more than Philadelphia's total -- on 14 fewer shots.
The All-Star led the Mavericks on a crushing 19-2 run. He hit a pair of 3s during the spurt to put Dallas ahead by three. He shook off a woeful first half in a big way, going 5 for 6 for 12 points.
"I had a couple go in, and we all know when a shooter sees a couple go in, the confidence goes up," Nowitzki said. "I knew in the second half I was going to come out and keep firing. I'm glad they went in."
So are the Mavericks.
Dominique Jones added 12 points, and Jason Kidd had nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists to help the Mavericks win their sixth straight game. Dallas snapped a tie early in the fourth with a 9-0 run, and that was more than enough with the 76ers losing their touch in the second half.
Reserve Nik Vucevic had 16 points to lead the Sixers, who missed 13 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.
"We just never could get anything offensively generated in the second half," coach Doug Collins said.
Lou Williams hit a jumper at the buzzer to give the Sixers eight points in the quarter and a 61-59 deficit. Philly missed 16 of 20 shots in the third and scored a season low for points in a quarter.
The Mavericks know how to hold on to a lead, improving to 18-1 when leading at the start of the fourth.
"Tonight was all about grit and guts and 13 guys being together and getting the job done," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Sixers beat everyone from the East-leading Bulls to Atlanta, Orlando and the Los Angeles Lakers in building a nice lead in the Atlantic Division.
They blew their chance in a big way to add the defending NBA champions to the list.
The veteran Mavericks have eight players with at least 10 years of NBA experience. Nowitzki, Kidd, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion have hit big shots and won big games at every level of the postseason, while the Sixers' nucleus is mostly 25 and younger.
But they played like seasoned pros early against Dallas for a half, dishing out 14 assists on 20 buckets in the first half and committing only one turnover. Lavoy Allen had six points and six rebounds in the first quarter, while Vucevic made his first five shots and finished the half with 12 points.
Elton Brand's lone block led to a fast-break dunk for Williams and a 13-point lead. The Sixers took a 51-37 lead into halftime and appeared in control.
Dallas had the experience edge -- just not the shooting one. Nowitzki missed nine of 11 shots and Marion was 1 of 7 in the first half. In crunch time, however, the Mavs know they can count on their All-Stars to bail them out. The Sixers had no one step up in the fourth with a needed basket or key stop.
"We took advantage of our depth and our experience," Dallas owner Mark Cuban said.
The 76ers needed more of each.
Philadelphia's starting backcourt of Jodie Meeks and Jrue Holiday combined to go 0 for 12 from the floor for three points.
"We had a look on our faces of concern, and we have to do a better job of getting out of those funks like that," Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. "It kind of lingered with us. It's a learning experience."
Nowitzki turned around after each shot in the third with a fist pump or big yell as he brought the Mavs back. All 12 of his rebounds were defensive.
"It's always a fun place to play," Nowitzki said.
Notes: 76ers C Spencer Hawes is wearing a boot on his left foot and will visit a specialist in California over the All-Star break. He's been bothered by an Achilles' heel strain. ... Jason Terry (personal) and Delonte West (broken finger) sat out for Dallas. ... Phillies slugger Ryan Howard was at the game.