DALLAS -- The hard-luck and short-handed Sacramento Kings couldn't hold onto a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and lost their sixth game in a row, 107-103, to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs' comeback with 34 points, 12 in the decisive final period. He spoiled Kings forward Rudy Gay's effort that included 35 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Kings led 78-64 with 3:44 to go in the third quarter after Gay drove the baseline for a bucket. But again playing without star center and offensive anchor DeMarcus Cousins, who is nursing a sprained left ankle, the Kings' offense quickly came unglued and the lead began to slip away.
Nowitzki's fourth-quarter 3-pointer, the Mavs' first of the game on 15 attempts, cut the deficit to 87-85, and Monta Ellis' two free throws tied it with 7:46 to play. As the Kings' offense continued to meltdown in the fourth quarter after their torrid third, Dallas took the lead, 89-87, on two Nowitzki free throws with 6:54 left. The Kings would keep it close, but they would never regain the lead.
Ellis finally sealed the victory with a three-point play with 12.4 seconds to go and then a pair of free throws with 4.6 seconds left for the final margin. The victory was huge for Dallas in the Western Conference standings. Had the Mavs lost, the streaking Memphis Grizzlies, winners of five in a row after Friday's win at Minnesota, would have knocked Dallas out of a playoff spot for the first time this season.
The Mavs overcame a 2-for-19 night from beyond the arc by going 29-for-36 at the free-throw line, outscoring the Kings by nine, and by committing just four turnovers.
Ellis rebounded from a recent scoring slump to score 20, with 16 in the second half. Point guard Jose Calderon had 14 points, including a big 3-pointer during the Mavs' fourth-quarter rally and backup center Brandan Wright had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Kings outshot Dallas 50.7 percent to 47.5 percent, but were outscored 32-22 in the fourth quarter. Point guard Isaiah Thomas had 19 points and six assists.
NOTES: Kings C DeMarcus Cousins missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. Kings coach Michael Malone said Cousins will also likely miss Saturday's game at San Antonio with a possible return Monday at home against Chicago. ... Cousins said he was disappointed he wasn't selected as a reserve to the West All-Star team Thursday. "I feel like I was pretty deserving of an All-Star spot," he said. ... Mavs F Shawn Marion missed the game with a right shoulder contusion, a recurring injury that forced him out of four games earlier in the season. ... Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki was named to his 12th All-Star team as a reserve Thursday. In Wednesday's game against Houston, Nowitzki became the 13th player in NBA history to surpass 26,000 career points. ... Dallas has now won its last 19 home games against Sacramento, the Mavs' longest ever home winning streak against one opponent.