DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki was having a sub-par game. Then the fourth quarter started.
Nowitzki scored 12 of his 21 points in the final quarter, Caron Butler matched his season high with 23 points and the Dallas Mavericks got back on track with a 103-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Jason Terry added 13 points for the Mavericks, whose 12-game winning streak was snapped by the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.
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Portland rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit, tying it at 93 with 2:07 left on Aldridge's reverse layup. But Nowitzki hit a 6-footer with 1:49 remaining to give Dallas the lead for good.
Nowitzki had six points during an 8-2 run capped by his 19-footer with 29.9 seconds left for a 101-95 lead. He accounted for 12 of Dallas' final 19 points, starting with a layup and a pair of free throws.
"I hit two free throws, that definitely helped me get going," Nowitzki said. "Then I was able to knock some good shots down, so just finding a way sometimes is all a shooter needs -- a layup and two free throws to get going."
Terry converted two free throws with 12.7 seconds remaining for the final margin.
The Mavericks wasted 25- and 20-point leads in their previous two games, rallying to beat Utah before losing to a Milwaukee team that was last in the NBA in scoring but put up 60 second-half points against Dallas.
This time, Dallas was up 63-46 in the third quarter on Jason Kidd's 3-pointer.
But the Blazers later had an 11-0 run and eventually trimmed the Mavericks' lead to 78-68 by the start of the fourth.
Butler carried the offensive load with nine straight points for his team during one third-quarter stretch and scored a total of 11 in the quarter. Meanwhile, Matthews had 13 third-quarter points for Portland.
"Butler plays an aggressive game," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He has no fear of big shots and big situations."
Carlisle wasn't happy with his team's second-half defensive effort against the Bucks, and it was a particular point of emphasis heading into Wednesday night's game.
Portland, whose field goal percentage of .430 was third-lowest in the league at the start of the night, went 42 for 85 from the field (49.4 percent).
But the Mavs hunkered down on defense over the final 1:34 as the Blazers turned the ball over twice and missed three of five shots.
"We circled the wagons and got it together," Carlisle said.
The Trail Blazers started the night tied for second in the league in offensive rebounds, and they had six in the first quarter and 12 for the game.
Dallas carried a 17-14 lead into the second quarter despite six turnovers in the opening 12 minutes.
The game was tied at 32 before the Mavs ended the second with a 19-7 spurt in a 5:46 span for a 51-39 edge at the break. Kidd hit a pair of 3-pointers during the second-quarter run.
Aldridge made the game tight down the stretch, hitting eight of 10 shots and pulling down six rebounds in the final quarter.
"When we win it's special," Aldridge said of returning to his hometown. "Losing is never special. We had a chance there at the end. Dirk made two really tough shots - that's what he does."
Portland C Joel Przybilla was assessed a technical in the second quarter when he fouled J.J. Barea on a drive, hitting Barea in the head. Barea wasn't injured on the play. ... Dallas has won 20 of the last 25 meetings between the teams. ... Portland won twice in Dallas last season, with Andre Miller scoring a career-high 52 points on Jan. 30. Miller had nine points Wednesday night. ... Portland's 14 first-quarter points were the low for an opening quarter by the Blazers, and by a Mavs opponent this season.