Nowitzki’s 35 Keeps Mavs’ Season Alive

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DALLAS –
If time machines were real, Mark Cuban would have bought one months ago.

There’s no sense lamenting Dirk Nowitzki‘s injury absence for the first 27 games of the season and his rocky return following right knee surgery in the middle of training camp.

The Dallas Mavericks can only hope that their bearded big man’s brilliance this week — culminating with Saturday’s season-high and season-saving 35-point performance in a 100-98 comeback win over the Chicago Bulls — continues as they hit the road for four tough ones. All-in-all, the Mavs have nine games left to steal the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Bulls, playing without Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli, led by 12 with 4:08 to go, by eight with 3:06 to go and by five, 97-92, with 1:27 to go. That’s when Nowitzki, 8-for-8 to start the game and 6-for-7 to finish it, kept hope alive and outscored Chicago 8-1 in the final 54 seconds.

“He’s made a career out of doing that,” Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said.

The sold-out matinee crowd was ready to erupt when Nowitzki stunningly missed a trailing, straightaway 3 with 60 seconds left, what would be his lone misfire of a 15-point final period. But Dallas corralled the rebound and Nowitzki got it back, wide open for a rare corner 3. Bang.

Next possession he victimized second-year guard Jimmy Butler caught in a mismatch. Swish, 98-97 Bulls. An unnerved Butler then gave Dallas a gift, bricking two free throws with 15.9 to go.

The Mavs’ guards have caught plenty of flak for not finding Nowitzki in key situations this season. Not this time.

“We ran a play there that I think confused them a little bit; me, Vince [Carter] and Mike James were kind of all there, running a little action and I think they messed up the switch a little bit,” Nowitzki said. “So one guy was open, I swung it to Vince, then they [the defenders] both ran to him.”

Carter quickly swung it back to Nowitzki just to the left of the top of the arc with the clock ticking down … 5, 4, 3…

“Had a good look and let it fly,” Nowitzki said. “Actually, that one didn’t feel as good coming off my hands, but it helps when you make a lot of shots before that. It kind of snuck in there. It kind of rattled, too.”

Whatever, it dropped with 2.9 seconds to go. And what was minutes away from a terribly disappointing, and likely season-crushing 3-3 homestand, became a momentum-juicer heading into a two-day break and a Tuesday night showdown in Los Angeles against the Lakers.

“It’s kind of like the story of our season, every time people write us off or saying we’re done, for some reason we find a way to hang around.  The same happened again today. I thought everybody was thinking this game’s over and we went and found a way to turn it around and save our season. We’ve been able to make this a close race. We’ve had some great wins over the last three weeks and we’re still in the mix.”

Dallas has gotten a little something from up and down the roster during its run to get into contention. Against the Bulls, center Brandan Wright didn’t get the start, but bounced off the bench for 17 points and 13 rebounds. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle made a point to boost O.J. Mayo, who went 1-for-13 shooting, but gutted through 42 minutes lugging around a painful sprained left shoulder. And the defense finally buckled down when it absolutely had to late.

Still, Dallas, suddenly seizing close games it used to let slip away, isn’t sniffing the eighth spot without Nowitzki, claiming his best health of the season, recently returning to All-Star form. That 11-year run came to an end this season, but he hasn’t closed the book on a 13th consecutive playoff berth.

During the just-concluded homestand that improved the Mavs’ March record to 11-4, Nowitzki posted two 30-point games (33 in Tuesday’s overtime win over the Clippers) and averaged 24.0 ppg on 61.5 percent shooting overall and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc.

“You can see him really champing at the bit to get to the eighth spot,” Mayo said. “He’s doing everything in his will to keep us within striking distance.”

His five 3-pointers on six attempts were a season-high and ruined Bulls guard Nate Robinson‘s incredible 25-point  game. Robinson connected on his first seven 3-point attempts, including a 32-foot, late-shot-clock heave that put Chicago ahead 93-81 with six minutes left in the game. His corner 3-pointer at the buzzer, though, bounced away, leaving Nowitzki and his Mavs with new life once again.

“The game is 48 minutes and we kept on playing,” said Nowitzki, who tallied his career 12th regular-season game-winner in the final 10 seconds of a game. “Myself, just step into the shots. I mean, really, there’s no other chance. It’s not like somebody else is unbelievably hot. … So just going to let it all hang out and see what happens.”

When Nowitzki does that, you just never know.

17 Comments

  1. @sports fan says:

    The Jones foul wasn’t a foul where he hit Kobe on the arm, shoved him or anything. The league claimed Kobe didn’t have enough room to come down and ruled that the reason as to why it should have been called. Now I ask you, have you ever seen an official make a foul call on a jumpshooter, where the shooter came down on someones foot and got the foul call? I haven’t seen that call yet, they only call those fouls when the defender jumps into someone or hits the shooter on the arm.

  2. magicmike says:

    Explain how Kpbe get’s this phantom call all the time without anyone touching him? sports fan you should change your name to kove fan.

    • hater alert says:

      I tried to reply, but for some reason my posts didn’t appear. All I can say is that the Lakers get 12 freethrows more than the opposing team over their last 20 games. Their average before that was 6.7…

      And yeah, the Salmons phantom foul was ridiculous…

      • sports fan says:

        I’m not a Kobe fan nor am I a Lakers fan & I’m not at all supporting any phantom calls. Both of you missed my point – which is the refs do not favor the Lakers every game. If they did then they would’ve called the foul on Dantay Jones to send Kobe to the free-throw line to help the Lakers win that game. But they didn’t call that foul which proves my point. In order to really prove your point you’d have to look at the stats for every team for the whole season to see what the refs are doing. You guys sound like paranoid conspiracy theorists. Just stop complaining & hating, instead just enjoy the NBA. And besides, one of two things will happen to the Lakers – they’ll miss the playoffs or get bounced in the first round. So who cares?!?

  3. sports fan says:

    To hater alert, the Lakers lost a close game by 4 points in Atlanta & Kobe didn’t get the call when Dantay Jones stepped & Kobe landed on his foot. The Lakers also recently lost a close game by 3 points at home against The Wizards & that didn’t go in favor of the Lakers as well. Not a Lakers fan here but these two examples show that the refs are not calling EVERY game in the Lakers favor.

    • hater alert says:

      There are several things you need to understand. First of all, the referees should NEVER call a game in the Lakers favor, they should ALWAYS call the game unbiased and consistent. Secondly, the referees can call the game in the Lakers favor and the Lakers can still lose the game because they are that bad, it’s not mutually exclusive. Thirdly, I watched a few Laker games recently and yeah, the refs call a lot of things just one way. Kobe and Howard get never called for traveling and they get a lot of bogus calls.

      Lastly, the Lakers started 1-3 and suddenly the average freethrow disparity (AFD) rises to 12. When the Lakers got to 8-8, the AFD fell down to 6 and ever since the Lakers threatened to fall out of playoff contention with a record of 24-28, the AFD somehow doubles again and is now at 12. That’s an average of 12 freethrows more in every game for the Lakers, that’s absurd…

      • sports fan says:

        Explain why Dantay Jones didn’t get called for a foul which would send Kobe to go to the free throw line at the end of that game. That was a crucial point, if Kobe hits those free throws then the outcome could’ve been different. And it wouldn’t have been a phantom call, but he gets a phantom call at the end of the Kings game. Your argument doesn’t make sense.

  4. MAVSFANFORLIFE!! says:

    YO!! My man Dirk Nowitzki carried the Mavs on his back and we won the game to be even closer to the playoffs! GO MAVS!!!

  5. hater alert says:

    Seeing how the refs call every game in the Lakers favor (especially at the end of close games), the Lakers will most probably make the 8th seed 1 game ahead of Utah and Dallas. In their last 3 games before tonight, they averaged 38 freethrow attempts and 14 more than the opposing team.

    In that game in Minnesota, Jamison got a phantom call for a 4 point play in the 3rd. In that same game, Kobe gets to hack Rubio on the last possession and the referee has a clear angle and just doesn’t call that foul. He even ridiculed Rubio for thinking he might get that call. The league issued a statement, that the call should have been made, but the Lakers have the W.

    And then you look at that Kings game tonight and you see Kobe getting a very late phantom call at the end of the game and on the other end, the Lakers can maul people and Howard gets to jump into people and there is no call…

  6. Flying Raijin_41 says:

    big game winner baby!

  7. I doubt they will make it to the playoffs. its going to be either the Lakers or the Jazz.

  8. ism says:

    Haha. Comedy and drama: The crowd booing so loud it must have gotten to Butler, who missed his two free throws. And then Dirk being sensational again with his three. These days, he is really reviving memories that seem older than they really are. I knew he had a lot left in his tank. Let’s make this an exciting run for the playoffs and then, please, Mark Cuban, provide Dirk with some serious additional firepower in the off-season. I think Dirk is making a strong case that he can still be great for some seasons. Apart from the Heat’s dominant and beautiful play, the race for the West’s 8th seed is the most exciting thing to me in the NBA these days. MIA-SAS and LAL-DAL are two superb matchups in the next 3 days!

  9. Chris says:

    Nice to see Dirk is himself again.

  10. W/E says:

    The mavs are not fooling anyone, they barely won and u all know they gotta win every single game from now on to make the playoffs so no i dont think so.

  11. LOLLLLLLL says:

    The Big D is back!

  12. Michael says:

    Carlisle did not call a 20-second timeout after the second missed free throw by butler, Mark Followil mentioned this was due to Thibodeaus good defensive schemes, they didn’t want to give Chicago the opportunity to get set.

  13. MavsFanBigD says:

    Dirk is back mof.os. Kobe and the Jazz can make playns for May.