DALLAS -- The Mavericks had to overcome the fool's gold of an early 25-point lead Saturday night.
Deep down, they had to know it wouldn't be that easy to beat Utah for the second time in 10 days.
And it wasn't.
It came down to dueling superstars, and the Mavericks were glad they had Dirk Nowitzki to offset the Jazz's Deron Williams.
Nowitzki's three-point play with 2:19 left put the Mavericks ahead by four points and gave them just enough breathing room to hold on for a 103-97 victory over the Jazz on the annual Seats for Soldiers night at American Airlines Center.
Their winning streak reached a dozen, and they had to earn it. After a 13 of 18 shooting exhibition in the first quarter, when they led 29-4 at one point, the Mavericks were just 20-of-48 in the final three periods, which is why they struggled to hold on.
It was a fun evening for everybody, particularly the 150 military personnel on hand for the Mavericks' seventh edition of the Seats for Soldiers event.
Organized by long-time season-ticket holder Neal Hawks, all the front-row seats were donated to wounded military members from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. American Airlines donated the travel, and Abacus fed the troops before the game.
The seats are valued at more than $235,000.
The Mavericks improved to 6-1 on their Seats for Soldier nights, although it didn't look good for a while at the end.
Williams, who had 34 points, converted a three-point play to tie the score at 89.
Nowitzki and Jason Terry would combine for the Mavericks' final 15 points. After Ronnie Price hit a 3-pointer to make it 96-95, Nowitzki made a spin move and was fouled for a three-point play with 2:12 to go. Al Jefferson scored, but then Terry knocked in a 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left to make it 102-97 and end the drama.
Nowitzki had 31 points and 15 rebounds.
Much was made of the Mavericks' visit to Utah eight days earlier, when Williams scored just one point in the second half.
This time, he came out with 19 in the first half and he kept attacking after halftime, which fouled up the Mavericks' defensive strategy.
"When he has huge nights, they're hard to beat," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said before the game.
As Jason Terry added about Williams: "He's had some great games in this building. We're just going to try to throw a lot of defenders at him and keep him out of the paint and the middle of our defense. When he's scoring and getting assists, he's tough. If we can make him do one or the other, it puts us in a good position to win."
That Williams had just four assists through the third quarter could be considered a strategic victory for the Mavericks.
Their lead shriveled from 29-4 all the way down to 54-47 when the Jazz scored the first five points of the third quarter.
Then the 3-point barrage began anew with DeShawn Stevenson throwing in a couple and Caron Butler adding one as the lead ballooned to 69-51.
Utah would chop it back to 81-70 going into the fourth.
Briefly: The Jazz started rookie Gordon Hayward for the second game in a row . . . Brian Cardinal was not at the game. He was suffering from a similar stomach disorder that knocked Tyson Chandler out of a game earlier in the week.