With Jason Terry injured and Josh Howard rendered ineffective by fouls, Dirk Nowitzki was left to fend for himself Saturday night.
And just then, a new sidekick showed up.
With J.J. Barea offering huge support, Nowitzki stepped up with three consecutive buckets in overtime to ignited the Mavericks to a 115-114 victory over the Chicago Bulls at American Airlines Center.
It was a hard-earned win that wasn't settled until both teams had exhausted several comebacks.
After Chicago scored first in overtime, Nowitzki hit three consecutive baskets, then Jason Kidd, who had forced overtime with a 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left in regulation, nailed a long jumper for a 105-101 lead with two minutes left.
Nowitzki then stole the ball from Ben Gordon and that led to a 20-footer by Howard, who had fought foul trouble but came up big when it counted most.
When Tyrus Thomas scored for the Bulls, they worked the ball to Nowitzki, who hit another fadeaway jumper for a 109-103 lead with 43.9 to go.
That was enough to close out the Bulls, barely. They got great nights from Thomas and rookie point guard Derrick Rose, as well as Gordon, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a one-point game.
The night was nothing if not a gallant effort by the backup guard Barea, who tried his best to fill in for Terry. Terry suffered a broken bone in the first half and sat out the second.
The Mavericks had come up empty on seven consecutive possessions to fall behind 95-90 with under two minutes left.
It was a minor miracle the Mavericks weren't behind further when Barea's drive with 1:22 made it 95-92, Bulls.
Rose was bothered by Barea on a midrange jumper and Brandon Bass got the rebound. Nowitzki was fouled and made it a one-point game with two free throws at 57.3.
The Bulls missed twice, but got the rebound both times and finally it was Rose who got a floater in the paint to bounce off all edges of the rim and drop through for a 97-94 lead with 24.7 left.
The Mavericks tried to get the ball to Nowitzki, but instead whipped it around to Jason Kidd, who got the pass from Barea and nailed a 3-pointer with 13.1 to go to tie the game.
When Rose missed a runner at the buzzer, overtime was on.
Earlier, the Mavericks had no choice but to rely on the backup trio of Barea, James Singleton and Brandon Bass.
Their starters weren't getting it done, so the Mavericks looked to the bench.
For almost 10 minutes of clock time, the reserves formed the catalyst that got the Mavericks back into the game. Before they came in, the Mavericks' were devoid of life. The energy level picked up and by they had turned it into a rugged game by halftime, when the Bulls had a 50-48 lead but the Mavericks had successfully avoided what could have been a perilous situation.
They had trailed by as many as nine points in the first half.
There was a point when it was fair to wonder if the Mavericks were headed toward another big loss. Their previous three setbacks had been by an average of more than 28 points.
Is that disconcerting?
"Yeah, wouldn't it bother you?'' coach Rick Carlisle said before the game. "It's not good. And we're trying to get away from that as much as we can.''
The Bulls, to some extent, were playing with house money in that this was the last night of a seven-game road trip, on which they already had won four times.
But with the Mavericks shorthanded, the Bulls stayed close all the way.
It was Barea who uncorked a 27-foot 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer to put the Mavericks up 77-72.
Of course, the Bulls erased that in no time, going up 81-79 barely two minutes into the fourth, setting up a riveting finish.