DALLAS, TX -- Dallas coach Avery Johnson let his players know they needed to improve defensively after a rugged stretch last week. The Mavericks showed they received the message loud and clear.
Jason Terry scored 25 points and the Mavericks held the New Orleans Hornets to just 36 percent shooting in an 89-80 victory Friday night.
Dallas had given up an average of 112 points in games against San Antonio, Denver and Utah last week. The Mavericks also had lapses in the second half Monday that didn't please Johnson, who has been critical of his team's defense in recent days.
But the Mavericks locked down the Hornets from the start, holding them 17 points below their season average.
"We just took pride in our defense," Johnson said. "I thought we were alert and into the game. They made a little run in the third. But we were able to stay strong throughout the game."
Dallas reserve Jerry Stackhouse scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.
Josh Howard added 15 points for Dallas, but reigning league MVP Dirk Nowitzki continued to struggle. He had only seven points on 2-of-8 shooting, and is 8-of-23 from the floor over the last two games.
Chris Paul scored 22 points for the Hornets on 9-of 21 shooting. Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Peja Stojakovic chipped in 10 points.
"We knew we were coming into a hornet's nest," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "They did a heck of a job defensively. And we did a poor job of executing and matching their intensity."
New Orleans had taken its first lead midway through the third before Terry scored eight points in a 10-5 spurt that gave Dallas a 61-57 advantage heading into the final quarter.
The Mavericks opened the fourth by scoring the first six points to stretch the lead to 10. New Orleans got within 83-78 in the final minute before Dallas put it away by hitting six straight free throws in the final 30 seconds.
"I had fun tonight," Stackhouse said. "There have been too many despondent faces on this team lately. We get paid well to play ball."
Dallas, which led 43-35 at halftime, went ahead 51-44 on Howard's layup with 8:09 left in the third. The Hornets answered with an 8-0 run to take their only lead of the game.
Stojakovic hit a pair of 3-pointers, then Paul stole the ball from Nowitzki and made a nifty layup to give New Orleans its first lead of the game with 5:38 left in the third.
Before Terry took over the game offensively, Stackhouse blocked the 7-foot-1 Chandler's layup attempt. Terry followed with a 3-pointer to give the Mavericks a 54-52 lead.
"That was really a turning point of the game," Johnson said.
Stackhouse then blocked Bobby Jackson's shot and fed Terry for another 3-pointer to put Dallas on top 57-54.
"We know we can (play good defense)," Dallas center Erick Dampier said. "We have to make up our minds to do it. If we take care of business defensively, the offensive end will take care of itself."
After taking the lead, New Orleans missed nine of its final 10 shots to end the third.
New Orleans was just as cold in the first quarter, hitting just 5-of-25 shots, and finished the half 14-of-45 from the floor.
Dallas took advantage, building a 41-25 lead in the second quarter on Terry's layup.
The Hornets' struggles were epitomized in a four-possession stretch in the second quarter.
Rasual Butler and Stojakovic airballed short jumpers on consecutive shots. Two possessions later on a pass seemingly intended for no one, Chandler fired the ball into the second row of seats.
"We made too many mistakes," New Orleans forward David West said. "You hold that team to 89 points, that should be enough to win."