DALLAS -- For the second straight game on this three-game homestand, the Dallas Mavericks kept fans in their seats until the waning seconds.
Dirk Nowitzki tallied 22 points and the Mavs overcame some anxious moments to slip by the Los Angeles Clippers 96-92 on Monday night before 20,436 at American Airlines Center.
It was the Mavs' fourth straight win and padded their record to 18-11, while the much-improved Clippers dropped to 17-9.
On Saturday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Mavs squandered an 18-point lead before winning in double overtime 97-94.
On Monday, the Mavs blew a 10-point lead, then used some late-game heroics by Nowitzki -- not to mention some solid play on defense -- to finally put away the Clippers.
After trailing 83-79, the Mavs ended the game on a 17-9 run with 11 of the points coming from Nowitzki. Still, the Clippers were in position to take the lead and possibly end their six-game, 10-day road trip on a winning note.
But Caron Butler, who was playing his first game in Dallas since he scored 30 points against San Antonio on Dec. 30, 2010 when he was playing for the Mavs, missed a 3-point attempt with 4.5 seconds remaining and LA down 94-92. Delonte West finished the scoring and sealed the game when he buried a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds left.
Besides Nowitzki's 22 points and seven boards, the Mavs got 16 points from Shawn Marion, and 10 each from Brendan Haywood, Jason Terry and Vince Carter.
Butler, who received his NBA championship ring prior to the game, led the Clippers with a season-high 23 points and eight rebounds. Meanwhile, Blake Griffin tallied 20 points and collected seven boards, and Chris Paul had 16 points and nine assists.
Griffin created a lot of tense moments when he missed five straight free throws down the stretch, which enabled the Mavs to maintain their lead.
Then after Dallas native Kenyon Martin scored on a fast-break layup with a minute left to trim the Clippers' deficit to 90-89, Nowitzki went to work. First, the 14-year veteran drilled a jumper over Martin to put the Mavs up by three.
Then, after Marion stripped the ball away from Martin when the latter was flying to the basket, Nowitzki buried two free throws to increase the Mavs' lead to 94-89 with 21.2 seconds left.
But the Clippers didn't go away as Paul stormed down the court and nailed a 3-pointer to close the gap to 94-92 with 17.5 seconds remaining. Jason Kidd then turned the ball over on a pass intended for West, setting the stage for Butler to be a possible hero in his return to Dallas.
However, Butler's shot barely missed its mark and the Mavs were able to walk off the court 2-0 on their homestand going into Wednesday's home game against the Denver Nuggets.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760