DALLAS -- The hard-luck and short-handed Sacramento Kings could not 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, selected for his 12th All-Star Game on Thursday, led the Mavs' comeback with 34 points, including 12 in the decisive fourth quarter. He spoiled Kings forward Rudy Gay's effort that included 35 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Kings (15-31) 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. Guard Monta Ellis' two free throws tied it with 7:46 to play.
As the Kings' offense continued to melt down in the fourth quarter after their torrid third, Dallas (27-21) took the lead, 89-87, on two Nowitzki free throws with 6:54 left. The Kings kept it close, but they never regained the lead.
"He's our horse and a guy that we rely on," Mavs forward Brandan Wright said of Nowitzki, who had 38 points and 17 rebounds in Wednesday night's two-point loss to Houston. "He's bringing it every night at 35 years old and not leaving a single drop of energy in his body when he is playing. We are riding that momentum and hopefully we can help him out and carry this thing to the playoffs."
Ellis provided second-half help. He sealed the victory with a three-point play with 12.4 seconds to go and then two 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 victory at Minnesota, would have knocked Dallas out of a playoff spot for the first time this season.
"Dirk was great, obviously, with 34 points in 34 minutes," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It was a tough night because our shot-making wasn't great. It took us almost three-and-a-half quarters to hit a 3.
"On those nights, you've got to hang in somehow and Sacramento had a pretty good groove going. Gay had it going early; he had 18 points on six shots in the first half. That's tough. We got down, but we hung in."
The Mavs overcame a 2-of-19 night from beyond the arc by going 29 of 36 at the free-throw line, outscoring the Kings by nine, and by committing just four turnovers. Dallas scored 18 points off 15 Sacramento turnovers.
"You look at them, they have four turnovers for four points. Good teams don't beat themselves," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "And we had (15) turnovers for (18) points. So it's very hard to win on the road when you beat yourself like we did tonight at times."
Ellis rebounded from a recent scoring slump to score 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He had 16 points 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.
"I thought Ellis played probably his best all-around game of the season," Carlisle said. "He had zero turnovers. He was extremely disciplined at both ends of the floor. He waited for the opportunities to pop and then he got to the rim. He had assists. He made huge free throws at the end. He was fantastic tonight."
The Kings outshot Dallas 50.7 percent to 47.5 percent from the field but were outscored 32-22 in the fourth quarter.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas had 19 points and six assists for the Kings.
"In the fourth quarter, you allow that team to score 32 points, and we put them on the foul line, we didn't get loose balls, we didn't get rebounds," Malone said. "And if you let that team hang around -- Monta started being in attack mode (and) got to the foul line; Dirk, obviously that's why he's a Hall of Fame player; but we just had no defensive mindset or presence in that fourth quarter and that's been our challenge all year long if you've watched us play."
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 on 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. In Wednesday night'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. ... After the game, the Mavericks assigned rookie Gs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo to the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League.