Deja vu: Dirk Nowitzki dominates down the stretch
The building was buzzing. The stakes were high. And Dirk Nowitzki was dominating.
Nowitzki scored 21 of his game-high 35 points in the final frame, hitting four of six shots from the floor and all 11 free throw attempts while the Mavs turned a six-point deficit into a seven-point victory.
The flashback to last postseason’s form made Nowitzki’s ugly first half easy to forget. He had a grand total of four points on 2-of-6 shooting at halftime.
Nowitzki knew his fortunes were changing as soon as his first shot of the second half fell. It was an off-balance stepback that he launched while being fouled by Luis Scola, and the ball bounced high off the back rim before tickling the twine.
“I got a good bounce,” Nowitzki said. “It was a little flat and the ball bounced five feet in the air and dropped in, so that obviously helps, to get a couple lucky bounces.”
Skill soon took over, with Nowitzki lighting it up for 31 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the second half.
The Mavs helped free Nowitzki by making a halftime adjustment. They scrapped the plan to try to feed him the ball in the post and opened up the offense, running a lot of pick-and-rolls and using the 7-footer as a floor spacer.
With Vince Carter (23 points) and Jason Terry (19 points) hurting Houston, Dirk suddenly found a lot of room to work against the Rockets’ defense.
“He was able off movement to catch the ball and do some things, make plays,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “A lot of it is very much a random game, but it’s the kind of trust that we have in our players to make those plays. It’s harder stuff to guard if you can do it, if you can pull it off and if you can make good decisions. The first half we struggled with decision-making. In the second half, and in the fourth quarter in particular, we were terrific.”
And Nowitzki was spectacular in one of the most important quarters of the Mavs’ season.
“Once he hit those two 3s back-to-back, we felt he got his rhythm back,” Terry said, referring to 3-pointers Nowitzki hit on consecutive trips early in the quarter. “He just kept being aggressive.”
Nowitzki’s other two buckets in the fourth were layups off of back-cuts. He did the rest of his damage from the line, going 11-of-11 on freebies in the final 4:05 to put the finishing touches on the Rockets.
It was only the fourth time this season the Mavs won a game they trailed after three quarters, but it felt so familiar. It was like a flashback to last season’s championship run, when Nowitzki took over time and again when it was winning time.
The Mavs can only hope it’s also a sign of things to come, now that Nowitzki & Co. have all but assured they’ll get a chance to defend their title in the postseason.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.