ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — O.J. Mayo scored 22 points and the Dallas Mavericks held on to beat the Detroit Pistons 102-99 on Friday night when Charlie Villanueva missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Dallas began the night 4½ games behind eighth-place Utah in the race for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Mavericks blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, allowing Detroit to go ahead 97-96 on a 3-pointer by Khris Middleton.
Dirk Nowitzki made two straight shots to put Dallas ahead by three. It was 100-99 after Villanueva caught Jose Calderon's airball and made a layup with 6 seconds left.
Darren Collison made two free throws for the Mavericks, and Villanueva missed from the left corner.
It was the opener of a four-game road trip for the Mavericks that might represent their last chance to start making up ground and extend their streak of playoff appearances to 13 seasons. Mayo went 5 of 8 from 3-point range and teammate Mike James was 4 of 6. Dallas shot 11 of 21 from beyond the arc.
Brandon Knight scored 21 points for the Pistons. Detroit coach Lawrence Frank missed his second straight game because of a personal matter, and assistant Brian Hill filled in.
Down 88-73 in the fourth, Detroit started its rally by scoring six straight points. The Pistons were still down 95-88 when Middleton and Villanueva made consecutive 3-pointers to set up a tense finish.
Brandan Wright scored 14 points for the Mavericks, and Nowitzki and James added 12 each.
Greg Monroe had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit. Middleton scored a season-high 14 points. He'd scored 37 all season prior to the game.
Dallas led 76-71 after three quarters, then started the fourth on a 12-2 run capped by two 3-pointers by Vince Carter. Knight then missed a layup while alone on a fast break, and it looked as though the Mavericks would have little trouble closing out the game.
It turned out Detroit had one more run left, but the Pistons still lost for the seventh time in eight games.