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Mavs fend off T-Wolves in Rubio's return

Feb 3, 2015 - 5:06 AM Dallas, TX ( - Monta Ellis scored 23 points and the Dallas Mavericks staved off a late comeback attempt from the Minnesota Timberwolves to hold on for a 100-94 win.

The Mavericks led from start to finish in their first game since point guard Rajon Rondo fractured his nose and orbital bone in Saturday's victory at Orlando, though they had to dig deep down the stretch as Minnesota cut a 21- point first-half deficit down to two with under two minutes remaining.

Boosted by Ricky Rubio's long-awaited return from a serious ankle injury, the Timberwolves pulled within 96-94 with 1:52 left before missing their final four shots.

Chandler Parsons added 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting for Dallas after missing two games due to illness, with Dirk Nowitzki going 7-of-10 from the field in a 16-point effort.

Rubio finished with 10 points in 21 minutes in his first action since Nov. 7. Kevin Martin paced Minnesota with 19 points and Andrew Wiggins netted 14, though the star rookie was held to a 4-of-14 effort from the floor.

"I feel good and I'm happy to be back," said Rubio. "I was dying inside watching the team (struggle) because I wasn't able to play and help my team."

Dallas led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter and owned a 91-81 advantage with under seven minutes to play when the Timberwolves began to rally. Wiggins ignited a 6-0 spurt with consecutive buckets and Thaddeus Young followed with a layup to trim the margin to four with 5:03 left.

Chandler's putback with 3:03 remaining gave the Mavericks some additional breathing room, but Mo Williams buried a trey and hit two free throws after a Nowitzki turnover to make it a two-point game into the final minute.

J.J. Barea, starting in Rondo's place, then drove the baseline and converted a tough reverse layup for a 98-94 Mavericks' edge with 52.9 seconds to go. He then sealed the victory with two free throws after Williams missed an open long-range look on the previous possession.

"He had some huge plays," Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said of Barea. "We were struggling to score and they were hitting us with some buckets at the other end. The play along the left baseline was huge because I think (the lead) went from two to four. That put some pressure on them."

Rubio, who had missed Minnesota's last 42 games, put up six points over the opening seven minutes, but the Timberwolves missed their first six shots as Dallas began the contest on a 10-0 run en route to building a 30-20 lead through one quarter of play.

The Mavericks extended the margin early in the second, with their reserves ripping off nine straight points to gain a comfortable 45-24 advantage five minutes into the period.

Minnesota countered with an 11-0 surge, however, and continued to chip away before the close of the half. A pair of baskets by Gorgui Dieng in the final minute, the last a follow-up slam of a Martin miss just prior to the buzzer, had the Wolves within striking distance at 54-47 at the break.

The Timberwolves were able to close within four midway through the third quarter when Martin's layup off a Young steal made the score 68-64. However, Ellis knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to finish off an 11-4 run that put Dallas back up by double digits.

Game Notes

Dallas guard Devin Harris left the game late with an apparent leg injury ... Williams, sidelined for Minnesota's previous three games with a sore hip, totaled 15 points in his return ... The Timberwolves went 23-of-26 from the foul line, but made just three of their 13 attempts from 3-point range ... Barea dished out eight assists while putting up 10 points ... The Mavericks have won all three matchups between the clubs this season, including a 98-75 win in Minneapolis on Jan. 21 ... Dallas is now 25-0 when leading after three quarters.