Don Nelson decided he would win or lose with his young bench Thursday night. The experiment was a success, although there were a few harrowing moments.
Martin Muursepp and rookie Chris Anstey had career highs of 24 and 20 points, respectively, and the Mavericks had their highest scoring game of the season as they won for the third time in four games, 119-109 over the Clippers, before 10,497 at Reunion Arena.
"I was going to let the bench win or lose the game in the fourth quarter," Nelson said. "I want them to gain experience and this was the kind of game for them to get it. I'm going to keep playing them in these type situations."
Muursepp, a second-year forward from Estonia, surpassed his previous career best of 18 points and added a career-high eight rebounds. Anstey, a first-round pick from Australia, had never scored more than 14 points.
"They took their opportunity and made the best of it," Nelson said of Muursepp and Anstey. "I really like our team and where we're headed. We needed to make some plays at the end and we found a way to win the game."
Cedric Ceballos scored seven of his 17 points during a 20-2 third-quarter run. Michael Finley also had 17 points for Dallas.
Lamond Murray's 24 points and Maurice Taylor's 21 paced the Clippers, who dropped their third in a row and 18th of 20. Isaac Austin had 16 points.
After trailing by as many as 29 in the third quarter, the Clippers mounted a late rally and narrowed the deficit to 106-100 with 4:34 left as James Robinson's layup capped an 11-0 run.
But Muursepp's three-point shot with 3:47 left pushed Dallas' advantage to 109-101, and six points from Erick Strickland expanded the lead to 117-105.
"We were panicking out there on the bench," Ceballos said. "It wasn't until there was about a minute left that Mike [Finley] and I felt like we could untie our shoes for the night."
Dallas was in front, 64-57, early in the third quarter before Ceballos ignited the decisive spurt with a three-point play. Ceballos added a short jumper and a tip-in to help Dallas expand its lead to 84-59.
Dallas went on to lead by as many as 29 later in the third quarter and carried a 94-72 lead into the fourth quarter.
"It looked like we were running in concrete for a while," Clipper Coach Bill Fitch said.
The Clippers shot 52.6%.