NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — With the game on the line, Rick Carlisle didn’t care that Dirk Nowitzki was having a horrible night shooting from the field.
The fortunes of the Dallas Mavericks were going to be put in Nowitzki’s hands, and the big guy didn’t disappoint.
Nowitzki hit a jumper in the lane with 6 seconds to play and the Mavericks continued their dominance over the New Jersey Nets with an 87-86 victory Saturday night.
Until his game-winning heroics, Nowitzki looked awful. He was 6 of 23 from the field and some of his shots barely touched the rim. One 3-pointer missed everything.
“When it comes down to it, there is really only one place to go in that situation,” Carlisle said. “I loved the way (J.J.) Barea came through down the stretch, but to put the ball in his hands in that situation was probably not fair to him. Look, Dirk delivered. I know he wasn’t shooting the ball well but I felt the matchup was good and he would get a clean look.”
The Mavericks put the ball in play with 20.1 seconds to go and Nowitzki was able to force a switch, getting Nets swingman Stephen Graham to guard him.
Nowitzki made his move at the top of the key with about 10 seconds play, got Graham off his feet, went under him and got his jumper to fall after a circle around the rim.
Satisfied, he walked toward halfcourt and pumped his fist.
“I tried to concentrate even more,” Nowitzki said of his last shot. “It was probably one of the best looks I had all night, in the paint, a 5, 6 footer. The up and under is usually my shot, but even that one almost rolled out.”
The Nets messed up their chance at a game-winning attempt.
Jordan Farmar’s inbound pass to Devin Harris was a little off target, and Harris had to rush toward the far sideline to get the ball. He was quickly double-teamed and threw a return pass to Farmar, whose off-balance shot didn’t come close to going in at the buzzer.
“I think it (the pass) threw our timing off a little bit, but it didn’t affect the play,” said Harris, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. “We got what we wanted. I just have to make the play.”
Nowitzki had 23 points to lead the Mavericks, who shot 34.7 percent from the field. It didn’t matter because their last shot was the only one that counted.
“Oh man. I couldn’t buy one,” said Nowitzki, who was playing in his fifth game after being sidelined for nine with a sprained right knee. “I don’t know what’s going on. I’m running in quicksand. I can’t make a move. I’ve got no legs. Even the last one really didn’t want to go in. It kind of rolled out there.”
Tyson Chandler added 19 points for Dallas, which has won five in a row and 19 of 22 against New Jersey.
Brook Lopez had 24 points for New Jersey, which lost its bid for a 13th win, which would have topped last season’s total.
New Jersey, which had rallied from a seven-point deficit with 4:44 to go, took its last lead at 85-84 on two free throws by Lopez with 1:32 to go.
After Nowitzki missed a bad-angle 12 footer from the baseline, Devin Harris had a chance to push the lead to three, but he only made one free throw with 51 seconds to go to make it a two-point game.
Nowitzki drove the lane on the Mavericks’ next possession and was blocked. Chandler picked up the loose ball and was fouled.
Dallas had made 26-of-27 free throws at that point, but Chandler missed his first attempt and made the second with 35 seconds left to cut the lead to 86-85.
Harris missed a jumper on the next possession after being grazed by Shawn Marion on his shot. The Mavericks called time with 20 seconds to go and set up Nowitzki for his winner.
Down 82-75 with 4:44 to play, the Nets scored eight straight points to take an 83-82 lead on a 3-pointer by Sasha Vujacic with 2:35 to go.
Barea put Dallas back ahead 84-83 with a 15-footer from the right of the foul line with 1:49 to go.
Dallas only shot 38.5 percent in the opening half but led 48-45 because it hit all 14 free throws.
The Mavericks scored the final 11 points of the half, with eight coming from the free throw line. Nowitzki had seven of the 11, including the only basket, a 3-pointer. Chandler had the other four free throws.
Dallas pushed its lead to 58-51 early in the third quarter, but New Jersey closed with a 17-10 spurt to tie the game heading to the final period.
NOTES: The last time the Nets had a three-game winning streak was early in 2009. …The Nets are now 5-2 with owner Mikhail Prokhorov at the game. … Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also was at the game. …The win was only the Mavericks’ second in nine games.