Dallas Mavericks struggle past lowly Bobcats

DALLAS -- Right now, the Mavericks want to win and get better.

They sure won Thursday night.

And they sure improved in the second half against the six-win Charlotte Bobcats.

But the idea is to improve in the big picture as the playoffs get closer, and the Mavericks continued to show problems getting started, finding offensive flow and finishing strong in the 101-96 victory.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and made back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Mavericks ahead in the third quarter, and Rodrigue Beaubois scored 14 points and energized a second-half revival.

But it was only the six-win Bobcats, so the win did little to re-establish the Mavericks' position, except keep them on track in a three-game homestand that ends Saturday night against San Antonio.

"It took us a while to get warmed up. But right now, we're just trying to get wins," forward Shawn Marion said. "This is the big picture right now. Just get wins and get better."

And the game produced another problem. Just as Marion returned to the lineup after recovering from a sprained right knee, starting center Brendan Haywood left in the second half with a sprained right knee.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he does not believe the injury is serious.

But above all, it was a second consecutive win, although against two of the worst teams in the NBA, and it kept the Mavericks on the rebound from a dispiriting 2-7 stretch over 12 days that ended last weekend.

"It's two wins, and we've done some good things," Carlisle said. "But if you look at our schedule, it gets significantly more difficult. We're playing some of the upper echelon teams."

The Mavericks, now 15-0 all-time against Charlotte, trailed by 14 in the second quarter before stabilizing themselves with a 3-pointer from Jason Terry, who scored 18 points.

Ian Mahinmi's two free throws with two seconds left finished a 7-0 run that cut the Charlotte lead to six at halftime, 54-48. Charlotte made 6 of 10 3-pointers and shot 51.2 percent in the first half.

But the Bobcats had only 14 points in the third quarter as the Mavericks regained the lead. Nowitzki hit two 3-pointers in the quarter for a 62-62 tie and a 65-62 lead.

Vince Carter's 3-pointer made it 74-68, and Beaubois made two strong plays to the basket for an 83-72 lead with 8:40 left. Nowitzki's stand-and-watch 3-pointer made it 88-74 with 6:44 left.

Still, Charlotte closed to within a possession in the last minute before the Mavs secured it.

"I liked our second half except for about 45 seconds at the end of the game," Carlisle said. "We hiccupped down at the end of the game, but we got through it."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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