Nowitzki had 24 points and nine rebounds, leading the Mavericks to a 93-84 victory on Saturday night and handing the Clippers their fourth straight loss to start the season. Last year, Los Angeles started out 0-6 before beating Dallas at Staples Center.
"The Clippers are a much better team than their record reflects," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We were in this exact situation last year -- they were winless, but they got us and it sent us into a bad stretch. Tonight we were able to make the plays down the stretch to get it done."
The Mavericks, coming off a victory over the NBA champion Lakers on Friday, could do no better than a 55-all tie with the Clippers at halftime.
"There was no letdown," Carlisle insisted. "Our concentration and our attitude was great coming into this game. Our guys knew that this was going to be a tough game. Look, it's hard to win in this place, whether we're playing the Lakers or the Clippers. To get out of here with two is an accomplishment."
The Clippers made only one field goal over the final 7:12, a seven-foot hook shot by Chris Kaman, who led them with a career-high 27 points on 12-for-19 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds.
The 7-foot center, in his seventh NBA season, has scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games for the first time in his pro career after getting 22 on Wednesday against Phoenix and 21 on Friday at Utah. Only four other times had Kaman recorded 20 or more in back-to-back contests.
Kaman's previous career high was 26 points. The Clippers have lost 11 of the last 14 games in which he's had at least 20.
"I played the same as I always try to," Kaman said. "I got to post up a lot tonight and I had good looks throughout the game. I was patient, and my teammates helped me get good shots."
This is only the fifth time in the Clippers' 40 years of operation that the club lost its first four games. They got off to an 0-16 start in 1994-95, and lost their first seven in 1982-83 when the team was based in San Diego. The Clippers also lost their first 17 games of the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, which was 50 games long.
"We need to start playing harder in the fourth quarter," Eric Gordon said. "We also need to do a better job of stopping the other team on defense. We had a couple of good runs and a few leads, but they made big plays and made the tough shots in the end."
Jason Terry scored 16 points off the bench for the Mavericks, including a 3-pointer that put them in front to stay with 5:07 left.
"We felt like we just had to come out with some energy and keep ourselves in the game," teammate Jason Kidd said. "We did that in the first half, then we got the lead in the third quarter. We couldn't score there for a while in the fourth, but we found out last night that we can play defense, and that carried over to tonight."
Leading by nine points after three quarters, the Mavericks missed nine of their first 10 shots in the fourth and committed three turnovers as the Clippers went on an 11-2 run that pulled them into an 82-all tie with 7:12 to play. Gordon hit a 3-pointer during the rally and Craig Smith capped it with a layup.
But Terry answered the Clippers' run with the Mavericks' third 3-pointer of the game and Erick Dampier helped seal it with an alley-oop dunk with 2:15 left. Dampier had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Kidd had 10 assists along with three points and six rebounds.
"The game came down to us getting 11 stops in the last 12 possessions. It's just great evidence of what's going to help us win -- and that's activity at the defensive end," Carlisle said.
Neither team led by more than six until Nowitzki made one of two free throws with 4:22 left in the third to give Dallas a 69-62 advantage. The Mavericks took their biggest lead, 74-62, on a 16-footer by Nowitzki that capped a 17-3 run with 2:47 remaining in the quarter.
Dallas played without reserve forward Drew Gooden, who strained a muscle on his right side early in the fourth quarter against the Lakers and will undergo an MRI when the team returns to Dallas. The Mavericks also were missing Josh Howard, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle and left wrist in May; and Tim Thomas, who had surgery on his right knee last month.
Nowitzki scored 20 or more points for the 28th consecutive game, the league's longest active streak. His longest such streak is 31 games. ... The Mavericks have won 13 of the last 16 meetings overall against the Clippers, and are 14-6 against them at Staples Center since the arena opened in October 1999.