TORONTO -- The Dallas Mavericks felt fortunate to get the victory.
Toronto's Morris Peterson was told not to switch off Howard and cover Nowitzki during a timeout before the decisive play. But Peterson did, allowing Howard to make a wide-open layup to give Dallas the lead. Toronto's Anthony Parker missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We really didn't show up until the second quarter and then we were in a dog fight," Nowitzki said. "Obviously, we got a little lucky. They both went with me and Josh was open and made a hell of a finish."
Nowitzki had 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals for the Mavericks, winners of 17 of their last 18 games.
Chris Bosh had 24 points and 15 rebounds, but his turnover after winning a jump ball set up the Maverick's last play with 6.5 seconds left. After the Mavericks inbounded the ball, Peterson converged on Nowitzki, allowing Howard to stand under the basket uncovered to receive Jason Terry's pass.
"I found Josh wide open. He made like a receiver and it was a great play," Terry said. "Toronto could have easily won that game."
Toronto led nearly the entire game, with Dallas briefly taking the lead with just over two minutes left and for good on Howard's layup.
Peterson called it a tough loss.
"We wanted this game bad. To come up short is definitely disappointing," Peterson said. "The lesson we can take out of this game is that we can play with anybody. We took a team like Dallas down to the wire."
The Raptors led by as many as 16, but Nowitzki scored eight straight points to start the fourth to cut the lead to three.
Bosh attempted just one shot in the fourth compared to five for backup point guard Jose Calderon. Bosh played only 5:48 minutes in the final quarter.
Toronto led by 11 at halftime and lost despite shooting 48.6 percent from the field.
T.J. Ford had 16 points and eight assists.
"It's tough to swallow this one, losing on a layup," Ford said. "We had the game won and let it slip out of our hands."
Andrea Bargnani, the No. 1 pick in the draft, had 12 points, including two 3-pointers. The 7-foot Italian has often been compared to Nowitzki because of his size and outside shot.
"He's a better player than when I was 19 or 20," Nowitzki said of the 21-year-old Bargnani. "He's going to be a heck of a player. He's a little more athletic than I even was back then. He can drive a little better than me."
- Peterson, Toronto's franchise leader in games, played his 500th game.
- Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun sat courtside.
- Nowitzki had a season-high 43 points in Friday's victory over Indiana.