DALLAS (AP) -- The Mavericks got a lift when coach Avery Johnson went back to a tried-and-true lineup. However, Dallas still struggled down the stretch before avoiding a fourth straight defeat to an underdog.
The lineup of Nowitzki, Harris, Terry, Dampier and Josh Howard was one of the most effective groups for the Mavericks last season when they won 67 games. But Johnson also wants Terry's firepower off the bench, and Terry is expected to return to his sixth-man role soon.
"We wanted to go back to our old lineup, five guys who are familiar with each other," Johnson said. "But hopefully we won't have to use it again for the rest of the season."
Defending MVP Nowitzki came through down the stretch, scoring eight points in the final 5:41, six from the free-throw line where he converted all 13 attempts. Nowitzki has hit all 24 foul shots he's taken over the last two games.
"I just kept working and stayed aggressive and looked for my shot if it was there," Nowitzki said. "And if it's not, swing the ball to the open man. We've got enough guys on this team who can make plays and really shoot it."
Brandon Bass had 15 points to help the Mavericks improve to 7-1 at home.
Terry and Howard had 12 points each and Dampier contributed eight points and 10 rebounds.
Harris' ability to push the ball for easy shots was a key element for Dallas, with Harris going 9-for-10 from the field and adding six assists.
"Harris is one of the fastest guys in the league," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "Give him a head of steam and he can go right by you."
Minnesota was coming off a rare victory on Monday night at New Orleans, and the Timberwolves hung tough until the closing seconds.
The Timberwolves closed to 108-103 on McCants' three-point play with 29 seconds left.
Terry then made one of two free throws with 26 seconds remaining, and Nowitzki rebounded Jefferson's miss from five feet with 15 seconds left to seal the win.
Nowitzki scored five points during a 14-7 run to open the third quarter, extending the Mavericks' lead to 72-52.
But the Timberwolves played better defense, fueling a 13-5 spurt over the final 2:16 of the third quarter led by Smith's seven points to close the gap to 83-77.
"We kept attacking and got some stops," McCants said of the comeback.
Dallas was in front at halftime, 58-45, on the strength of 22-for-42 field-goal shooting.
The Mavericks had 11-0 run late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter capped by Jose Barea's three-point play for a 35-22 advantage.
Dallas went 12-for-21 in the opening period and built a 30-22 lead entering the second quarter behind Harris' 11 points.
Harris was under orders to get the running game rolling, and he responded.
"We really wanted to push the pace and get some layups," Harris said. "We've been getting off to slow starts. This was a big win for us. We haven't played well the last three games. It was time to get back to basics."
Dallas G Eddie Jones (sore right leg) and F Devean George (left foot) will be out for at least another week. ... G Randy Foye (left knee) and C Theo Ratliff (sore right knee) remain out for Minnesota. ... Dallas has won the last six meetings with Minnesota. ...Jefferson has 10 double-doubles this season.