Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks finally took advantage of an injury-depleted team, leading the Detroit Pistons from start to finish, but then had to hold on down the stretch for a 103-101 victory Tuesday night.
Richard Hamilton was a late scratch for Detroit because of an aggravated groin problem. With Rasheed Wallace (calf) and Allen Iverson (back) also out, the Pistons were missing a combined average of 48.5 points per game, and were out of whack from the start.
Detroit never led or even tied and was down by 14 going into the fourth quarter. Then Tayshuan Prince opened the final period by flying past Mavs center Erick Dampier for a thunderous dunk, igniting a rally that got the Pistons within 90-85 midway through the quarter.
Dampier put Dallas back up by 10 with 2:10 left, but the Pistons wouldn't go away. In the final 18 seconds, Detroit got within 98-95, 100-97 and 101-99. The Pistons scored again as time expired to make the final score look as close as the last few minutes played out.
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Nowitzki scored 30 points, Jason Terry had 18 and Dampier tied his season high with 16 points, and had 13 rebounds.
The Mavs won their eighth straight at home, although this was short stint as their lone game in Dallas during a 17-day, seven-game stretch. They were coming off a 2-2 trip West and are headed East for games in Atlanta and Indiana.
Josh Howard won't be part of the trip. This was the sixth straight game the swingman has missed because of a problem with his left ankle, and coach Rick Carlisle isn't expecting him back before late next week. Howard is getting a cortisone shot and will need arthoscopic surgery at some point, although possibly not until the offseason.
Prince scored 28 points and Will Bynum set a career high with 19. Rodney Stuckey added 17, Arron Afflalo had 16 and Antonio McDyess 10 as the Pistons lost their second straight and fourth in six games to slip back to .500 (33-33).
The victory against a short-handed team was quite a switch for the Mavs. In the last month, they were drubbed by San Antonio when the Spurs were without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and lost to Oklahoma City when it was without its top two scorers; the loss to the Thunder prompted Dallas owner Mark Cuban to publicly question his team's effort.
Notes:@ Dallas made its first six shots and Detroit missed six of its first seven. ... Before the game, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle fondly remembered late Pistons owner William Davidson for his wisdom and sense of humor. Davidson died Friday and was honored Tuesday at a memorial service in Michigan. ... Detroit was 6-2 in the eight previous games Hamilton missed this season. ... The Mavs wore their alternate green jerseys in honor of St. Patrick's Day. ... The announced crowd of 20,427 was the largest of the season and the 309th straight sellout.