Nowitzki, Butler Get Mavs Back on Winning Track

Mavericks 113, Bulls 106

The Dallas Mavericks got back to their winning ways and avoided the first-quarter struggles that have bothered them lately. They also were thrilled to get Jason Terry back just two weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone in his face.

Things would've really gone great if not for a lapse in the fourth quarter.

With Jason Kidd taking the final period off, backup J.J. Barea was part of a defensive collapse that let the Chicago Bulls turn this near-rout back into a tight game. Then Barea recovered, scoring 10 straight points to help the Mavericks pull out a 113-106 victory Wednesday night.

"We've got to get better at closing out games," Barea said. "But as long as we keep getting those leads and as long as we keep getting Ws, it's all fine."

Caron Butler scored 27 points, and Dirk Nowitzki had 26 as the Mavericks won for the 14th time in 15 games. They'd tied the NBA's longest winning streak this season with 13 straight, then ended it with a thud -- a 34-point loss to New York on Saturday night.

After three days without a game, Dallas came out clicking. The Mavs were up by 12 after the first quarter and by 20 at halftime. They were hitting nearly 70 percent well into the third quarter.

Then the Bulls scored on 11 of their first 12 possessions in the fourth quarter. They were down only 98-90 when Barea hit a jumper, two 3-pointers and a layup to give Dallas some breathing room, leading by 15 with 3:36 left.

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"J.J. really stepped up big in the fourth quarter and saved us," Nowitzki said.

Chicago, wearing green uniforms for St. Patrick's Day, lost its ninth straight.

Although the Bulls got Kirk Hinrich back from a one-game suspension, they were still without point guard Derrick Rose (sprained left wrist), swingman Luol Deng (right calf strain) and big man Joakim Noah (left foot plantar fasciitis).

They seemed to be going through the motions much of the night, earning just 10 free throws through three quarters. They got to the line 13 times in the final period and made things interesting again after Barea's surge, but it was too little, too late.

"We're short-handed, so everybody's got to step up," said Hinrich, who scored nine points. "It's unfortunate, but nobody's going to feel sorry for us."

Dallas native Acie Law scored a season-high 22 points for Chicago. Five other players scored in double figures, and two more scored nine points. But the Bulls were done in by a defense that allowed at least 100 points for the 12th straight game.

"We've got to tighten up defensively," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "That's how we won early in the season. We've got to control the paint and control penetration. ... The first half was very easy for them."

Barea finished with 15 points and Roddy Beaubois scored 11, picking up the slack for Kidd. Kidd was 0 for 5 and ended a streak of 30 straight games with a 3-pointer, which had been second-best in the NBA. He was 0 for 4 from behind the arc.

The bigger news for the Mavericks' backcourt was having Terry back.

Sporting a clear mask partly obscured by his headband, Terry entered to the "Phantom of the Opera" and quickly made his first three shots. He finished 4 of 10 for nine points in 25 minutes.

"The mask has worked out OK the last couple days of practice, but you just never know," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's a factor on the floor because of all the attention he draws. He changes the geometry of the rest of the players. Even when he's not scoring, he's a factor."

Hinrich missed the previous game because of contact with a ref. He might need to be on his best behavior from now on -- he got called for a technical foul with 2:05 left.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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