DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki looked like a 35-year-old veteran playing his fourth game in five nights in the first half against New Orleans — and so did everyone else.
The Dallas star played like an MVP in his prime after halftime, when the game improved substantially for both teams.
Nowitzki scored a season-high 40 points, and the Dallas Mavericks recovered from a brutal first quarter and held to beat New Orleans 110-107 on Saturday night for their second win in as many days against the Pelicans.
The teams combined for more points in the third quarter than the entire first half. Nowitzki was the perfect illustration of the difference, getting 20 points in the third and hitting seven straight shots after starting just 2 of 9 from the field.
“It was an ugly game in the first half,” Nowitzki said. “Then all of a sudden the basket started opening up and everybody’s confidence went up.”
Monta Ellis broke a 99-99 tie with two free throws, and Nowitzki hit three more after getting fouled on a 3-pointer by Jason Smith. Nowitzki was 15 of 16 from the line and Ellis, who scored 26 points, made 12 of 15. Dallas was 39 of 45 as a team.
Anthony Davis had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost their fifth straight and dropped six games below .500, both season highs.
The Mavericks, who won three of four games in a five-night stretch, almost blew a seven-point lead in the last 2 minutes after shooting 27 percent in the first half, when Dallas led 42-37 before outscoring New Orleans 42-40 in the third.
Davis made five of six free throws to get New Orleans within two at 106-104 with 18 seconds left.
The Mavs had to call timeout after having trouble inbounding the ball, and Nowitzki hit two foul shots for a four-point lead and his first 40-point game since April 16, 2012, at Utah. He also had 40 in that one.
“Oh man, unbelievable,” Ellis said of Nowitzki. “I’ve seen that a lot throughout my career. For him to come out and give us that lift tonight really opened up a lot for us as a team.”
Darius Miller hit his fourth 3-pointer of the second half to get New Orleans within a point, and Jose Calderon hit two free throws for Dallas for the last of his 17 points with 9 seconds left.
Pistons 110, Suns 108
In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Josh Smith’s driving, left-handed bank shot with 1.2 seconds left gave Detroit a win over Phoenix.
Smith finished with 25 points, and Brandon Jennings had eight points, 18 assists and eight rebounds for the Pistons.
Rockets 114, Wizards 107
In Washington, Houston built a 25-point lead, lost all of it and then some, then rallied from five down late in the fourth quarter to defeat the hosts in a game twice delayed by leaks in the roof.
Trail Blazers 112, Celtics 104
In Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 13 rebounds to help the hosts hand Boston its eighth straight loss.
Knicks 102, 76ers 92
In Philadelphia, Amare Stoudemire scored 21 points and Carmelo Anthony added 18 to lead New York over the 76ers.
Raptors 96, Nets 80
In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points, Patrick Patterson had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and the Raptors snapped Brooklyn’s five-game winning streak.
Bulls 113, Bobcats 107
In Chicago, D.J. Augustin had 20 points and 12 assists and Joakim Noah added 19 points and 14 rebounds to help the streaking Bulls beat Charlotte for their fifth straight victory and improve to 3-0 since trading All-Star Luol Deng to Cleveland on Monday.
Thunder 101, Bucks 85
In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 33 points after missing his first eight shots and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 17 boards to help the Thunder beat Milwaukee.
Nuggets 120, Magic 94
In Denver, Kenneth Faried had 17 points and nine rebounds, Randy Foye and Evan Fournier scored 18 points apiece for the Nuggets against Orlando.