How it happened: Somehow, the 35-year-old Nowitzki found the energy to dominate the second half while playing in his fourth game in five nights.
Nowitzki finished with a season-high 40 points, 27 of which came after halftime. That included a 20-point third quarter, when he snapped out of a 2-of-9 funk to knock down seven consecutive shots from the field. Nowitzki finished the night 10-of-20 from the field, 5-of-9 from 3-point range and 15-of-16 from the free throw line.
The Mavs still had to pull out the win during crunch time after New Orleans made a run to regain the lead midway through the fourth quarter. Potential All-Star power forward Anthony Davis fueled the Pelicans' comeback bid by scoring 15 of his 28 points in the period, including a fast-break dunk off a lob pass to give New Orleans the lead with 6 minutes, 35 seconds remaining.
Nowitzki's scoring sidekick played a crucial role in helping close the door. Monta Ellis had six of his 26 points in the final 5:29, including a pair of free throws to give the Mavs the lead for good with 3:18 remaining.
The Pelicans had an opportunity to send the game into overtime, but Austin Rivers couldn't get a 3-point attempt up over Ellis. Rivers complained to the referee about being fouled on the play but didn't get a whistle.
The Mavs managed to overcome a horrendous shooting first half. They shot 27.3 percent from the field in the half yet still had a 42-37 lead at the break. The Mavs were just 2-of-17 from the field in the first quarter and didn't make a field goal until Jose Calderon's 3-pointer at the 6:55 mark.
What it means: The Mavs won three of their four games in five nights, finishing the stretch by sweeping the Pelicans in a home-and-home, back-to-back set. Dallas improved to 22-16, pulling even with the Phoenix Suns for seventh place in the Western Conference. New Orleans dropped to 15-21.
Play of the game: Ellis' and-1 fast-break layup with 2:42 remaining wasn't a dagger, but it was a huge blow to the Pelicans. After Brandan Wright knocked the ball loose, Ellis had trouble getting control of it but kept moving toward the hoop. He got the handle in time to lay it up while drawing contact from Eric Gordon, who was pursuing behind Ellis. Ellis missed the free throw, but the play gave the Mavs a seven-point lead and fouled out Gordon, who had 20 points for the Pelicans.
Stat of the night: Nowitzki has had four 20-plus-point quarters in his career, including a franchise-record 29 in the fourth quarter of a Nov. 3, 2009, win over the Utah Jazz.