DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki looked like a 35-year-old veteran playing his fourth game in five nights in the first half against New Orleans — and so did everyone else.
The Dallas star played like an MVP in his prime after halftime, when the game improved substantially for both teams.
Nowitzki scored a season-high 40 points, and the Dallas Mavericks recovered from a brutal first quarter and held to beat New Orleans 110-107 on Saturday night for their second win in as many days against the Pelicans.
The teams combined for more points in the third quarter than the entire first half. Nowitzki was the perfect illustration of the difference, getting 20 points in the third and hitting seven straight shots after starting just 2 of 9 from the field.
"It was an ugly game in the first half," Nowitzki said. "Then all of a sudden the basket started opening up and everybody's confidence went up."
Monta Ellis broke a 99-all tie with two free throws, and Nowitzki hit three more after getting fouled on a 3-pointer by Jason Smith. Nowitzki was 15 of 16 from the line and Ellis, who scored 26 points, made 12 of 15. Dallas was 39 of 45 as a team.
Anthony Davis had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost their fifth straight and dropped six games below .500, both season highs.
The Mavericks, who won three of four games in a five-night stretch, almost blew a seven-point lead in the last 2 minutes after shooting 27 percent in the first half, when Dallas led 42-37 before outscoring New Orleans 42-40 in the third.
Davis made five of six free throws to get New Orleans within two at 106-104 with 18 seconds left.
Dallas had to call timeout after having trouble inbounding the ball, and Nowitzki hit two foul shots for a four-point lead and his first 40-point game since April 16, 2012, at Utah. He also had 40 in that one.
"Oh man, unbelievable," Ellis said of Nowitzki. "I've seen that a lot throughout my career. For him to come out and give us that lift tonight really opened up a lot for us as a team."
Darius Miller hit his fourth 3-pointer of the second half to get New Orleans within a point, and Jose Calderon hit two free throws for Dallas for the last of his 17 points with 9 seconds left.
Austin Rivers tried to get off a 3-pointer at the buzzer but was tied up by Ellis.