DALLAS -- Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle spent most of Tuesday night scrambling for answers. The coach found a spark the Mavericks needed from an unexpected source -- just in time to beat the reeling Los Angeles Clippers.
Seldom-used Jose Barea hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute as the Mavericks rallied from a 15-point deficit for a 100-98 win.
Barea, who is 11th on his team in scoring and plays a little more than 12 minutes per game, capped Dallas' closing 18-4 run with a long-range jumper with 50.2 seconds left that gave Dallas its only lead of the game.
"It was unorthodox really all night," Carlisle said. "It was just a search for some energy, a spark at the defensive end. .... For a four-minute stretch we caught lightning in a bottle and found some magic."
Barea, who scored a season-high 15 points, has earned more playing time in recent days. He had 10 points and nine assists as the Mavericks nearly upset the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Carlisle went to a three-guard lineup of Barea, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd for a majority of the fourth quarter and switched to a zone defense to slow down the Clippers, who shot 51 percent through three quarters.
"Coach made good adjustments on the zone," Barea said. "Their faces were looking shaky. They're a good one-on-one team. We played like a team in the zone."
The Clippers dropped to 3-14, their worst start since losing 16 of 19 to open the season in 1997-98.
Los Angeles had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds. Baron Davis missed a 3-pointer with just over a second left and Dirk Nowitzki grabbed the rebound as time expired. After the final buzzer sounded, teammates mobbed Barea under the basket.
"That's just the way the game was going," Terry said. "Momentum was on our side."
Nowitzki scored 29 points, Terry added 26 and Brandon Bass chipped in with 14 for the Mavericks, who moved over .500 for the first time this season.
"Once we stopped being aggressive, that's when the tables turned," Davis said. "This is a tough loss. We were up seven with two minutes to go. On the road you've got to find something to close it out."
Steve Novak hit a jumper on the opening possession of the fourth to give Los Angeles an 83-68 lead as the Clippers seemed poised to win its second game over the Mavericks this season.
The Clippers still led by 12 with seven minutes left when the Mavericks started their comeback.
Nowitzki's putback cut the Clippers' lead to 96-91. After Thornton's jumper put Los Angeles up 98-91, the Mavericks scored final nine points of the game.
Terry made a jumper and layup that brought Dallas to 98-97 with 1:15 left.
After Eric Gordon missed, Kidd found Barea for a 3-pointer from the left wing.
"I saw [Kidd] bring the ball down," Barea said. "I knew at some point the ball was coming over to me. I got my feet ready and it went in."
The Mavericks have won seven of eight since starting the season 2-7. The Clippers have lost five in a row and 18 of 21 in Dallas.
Los Angeles has dropped five games in the past three weeks by five points or less.
"A really disappointing loss for us," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We played so well throughout the game. But in the fourth quarter we did a terrible job defensively."
Los Angeles, who came into the game next to last in the NBA in shooting percentage, hit 10 of 12 shots to close the first half and take a 55-47 lead.
Randolph spurred an 11-5 closing surge with a three-point play. Davis hit a jumper to put Los Angeles ahead 55-44 before Brandon Bass brought Dallas within eight with a three-point play.
Randolph, Davis and Thornton scored 46 of the Clippers' 55 points in the first half.
The Clippers built on their halftime edge, stretching their lead to 15 late in the third. Davis hit a long jumper with 1.5 seconds left that gave the Clippers an 81-68 cushion after three quarters.
Clippers C Chris Kaman (strained left arch) missed his second straight game. ... Mavericks F Josh Howard was out of the lineup for a sixth consecutive contest with a sprained left ankle. ... Dallas F Devean George made his first start of the season. ... G Mardy Collins, who had one basket, scored his first points with the Clippers since coming over with Randolph from New York on Nov. 21.