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Dirk Nowitzki is settling back into rhythm

2/1/2011

The drives as only Dirk Nowitzki can do them are coming back. The step-backs and fallaways are no longer hitting front rim or -- gasp -- nothing at all.

Two weeks after his return from a sprained right knee, Nowitzki is regaining the shooting touch that threatens to blow away the career-best field-goal percentage (50.2 percent) he achieved during his MVP season of 2006-07. Even through a seven-game stretch in which he shot less than 40 percent and debate raged whether he should even be playing, Nowitzki holds a 52.2 shooting percentage.

His last two games, 15-off-22 from the field (68.2 percent) for a 21.5-point average, finally put a stop to the percentage drop and kept him on pace to shoot 50 percent or better for only the second time in his 13-year career.

"Yeah, I felt better, especially in the second halves," Nowitzki said, who noted a few days ago that he became easily winded in the second half of games. "I feel like I can make stronger moves again. My legs are there. My wind is better. We’re still going with the two breaks a half, which we usually haven’t before I got hurt, but it definitely helps me get out a minute or two, even in the fourth quarter I get another rest. So, we’ll see how long we keep that up."

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle altered Nowitzki's substitution pattern, playing him in shorter bursts to try to preserve his wind. It seems to have worked. The extra breaks also enabled Nowitzki to log just 33 minutes in the last two games, his fewest during the current five-game win streak.