And Nowitzki delivered with 44 points -- 14 in overtime -- to send the Mavericks to a 115-114 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.
Jason Terry, Dallas' No. 2 scorer at 20.2 points per game, will be out for an extended stretch after sustaining a broken bone in his left hand in the first half.
Josh Howard, who spent long stretches on the bench because of fouls, finished with 13 points, almost five below his average.
So it was up to Nowitzki to take control after missing 10 of 15 field-goal attempts in the first half.
"Unbelievable performance," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He just stayed patient and into the game. Down the stretch his shot-making was phenomenal."
The Bulls tried several defensive tactics to hold down Nowitzki in the second half and overtime, with little success.
"That's why he's a superstar," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We tried trapping him, we switched on him, but we couldn't get to him."
Nowitzki connected on five of seven shots from the field in the overtime and hit all four free throws to help the Mavericks win for the fifth time in six games.
Nowitzki converted three straight jumpers on Dallas' first three possessions of the overtime for a 103-99 lead.
Chicago got within 113-111 with 3.8 seconds left in overtime on Tyrus Thomas' 3-pointer.
But Nowitzki swished a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds left to close out the Bulls, who got within one on Thomas' 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
Nowitzki fell two points short of his season high set on Dec. 13 against Oklahoma City, going 16-for-34 from the field, making all 11 free throws, pulling down nine rebounds and blocking three shots.
"I just had to stay aggressive and look for my shot, especially with [Terry] out," Nowitzki said. "[Terry] is instant offense off the bench."
Jose Juan Barea came off the bench to score 20 points for Dallas.
Terry got injured in the first half and was ruled out at halftime after X-rays showed the break, finishing with eight points and four assists in 16 minutes. Terry told team officials he wasn't sure when the injury occurred. His condition will be evaluated on Monday.
The Mavericks will certainly miss their high-scoring sixth man.
"He almost had tears in his eyes, that's how much he cares," Nowitzki said of Terry. "We told him we got this one for him and we would hold down the fort. He's the best sixth man in the league and we'll miss him dearly."
Nowitzki missed nine of his first 10 field-goal attempts before getting untracked, making his final three shots of the second quarter and scoring Dallas' last six points.
"It was crazy," said Joakim Noah, one of several Bulls who tried to defend Nowitzki. "He misses nine of 10, then hits nine, 10 in a row, tough shots. I was watching some of his shots and thinking there's no way it's going to go in."
The Bulls took a 50-48 lead into the break.
Chicago got off to a 13-4 start capped by consecutive 3-pointers from Kirk Hinrich and the Bulls carried a 24-20 lead into the second quarter. Nowitzki was 1-for-7 from the floor in the opening quarter.
Bulls forward Drew Gooden continues to sit out with a left groin strain. He's expected to consult with a sports hernia specialist next week in Chicago. ... Dallas has won 19 of its past 22 games against Chicago.