DALLAS -- Dallas coach Rick Carlisle warned his team that the trade-depleted Charlotte Bobcats were still dangerous. The Mavericks got the message just in time.
Dirk Nowitzki hit a key 3-pointer with less than 30 seconds to play and finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to help the Mavericks hold off the pesky Bobcats 95-90 on Thursday night.
"We escaped," Carlisle said. "All these teams are capable. They [the Bobcats] are really hungry for a win."
Jason Terry had 26 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, to help the Mavericks improve to 10-0 against the Bobcats.
The Mavericks bounced back from a double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night and have won 10 of their last 12.
"We gave them confidence early and they kept coming," Terry said. "They weren't going to back down. They were short-handed and we have to play better."
The Bobcats had a short bench after the trade Wednesday that sent top scorer Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and a 2010 second-round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary. The Charlotte newcomers are expected to make their Bobcats debuts Saturday night at home against Detroit.
"We played a lot of guys who've never really played before," Bobcats coach Larry Brown said.
Charlotte rookie point guard D.J. Augustin went 3-for-16 from the field, finishing with nine points and 10 assists.
"[The Mavericks] were closing off the lane and we couldn't penetrate and get anything to fall," Augustin said.
The Mavericks played poorly on defense in the first half as the Bobcats scored 26 and 28 points in the opening two quarters. But Dallas clamped down in the final quarter, limiting Charlotte to 16 points.
"It was about defense tonight," Carlisle said. "They're a difficult team because they're very persistent."
Okafor also limited Nowitzki to 9-for-21 shooting.
But Nowitzki, who began the night as the NBA's No. 3 scorer at 25.5 points per game, came through when it counted.
Dallas was up 90-89 when Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 28.3 seconds left. Terry added two foul shots with 19.4 left for the final margin.
Terry's short jumper triggered a 12-2 fourth-quarter spurt, with Nowitzki's 3-pointer ending it as Dallas built an 86-80 edge with 5:53 remaining. But the Bobcats answered with an 8-2 run, capped by Ryan Hollins' dunk with 3:09 left, to tie it at 88.
Terry's two free throws with 2:54 remaining put Dallas in front for good, 90-88.
Nowitzki had only nine points at halftime, but the former league MVP heated up in the third quarter, scoring eight straight during one early stretch.
The young Bobcats kept up the pressure while the Mavericks went 4 minutes without a third-quarter field goal until Kidd hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 that pulled Dallas to 73-72. The score was even at 74 entering the final quarter.
Charlotte hit 10 of its first 18 field-goal attempts and the game was tied at 26 heading into the second quarter.
Okafor had a double-double with 4 minutes left in the half and the Bobcats carried a 54-53 lead into the intermission behind Okafor's 17 points and 11 rebounds.
"We were just a step slow," Nowitzki said. "We had no energy. The building was quiet. The second half was much better. That's the kind of defense we have to play from the start to keep teams from getting confidence. We were a little lucky to get the win down the stretch."
Mavericks F Josh Howard missed his 10th consecutive game because of an ankle injury. There's no timetable for his return. ... Okafor's previous season high was 25 points against Oklahoma City on Dec. 3. ... Carlisle said his team needs a break so he called off Friday's practice for his regulars.