Nowitzki was coming off two consecutive off games and was practically a spectator while the Mavs were on offense for most of the first half of the previous night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. The top priority entering the game was to get the big German going again, which is why coach Rick Carlisle called a play to get Nowitzki a post-up opportunity on the opening possession.
Nowitzki knocked down a one-legged fadeaway on that play, when he got the ball on the left block after coming off a back pick set by Monta Ellis. He took four shots in the Mavs’ first six possessions, making three of them and setting the tone for a spectacularly efficient 31-point, 12-of-14 outing.
Should it be the highest priority to get the face of the franchise the rock right off the bat in every game?
“We want to get him touching the ball early in the game in every game,” Carlisle said. “If it doesn’t happen, I blame myself for it.
“We want to play a flowing, random type game as often as we can because we feel it’s a strength, but the ball has to move through the best players. When it doesn’t, I have to intervene and make play calls to get him involved touching it, to get Monta involved touching it, things like that. But we’re at our best when we’re playing a free-flowing game without play calls with good recognition.”
He’ll get no argument from Nowitzki, who much prefers the pick-and-pop looks or mismatch opportunities he often gets out of the flow offense over the more physically taxing iso’s and post-ups that tend to come from play calls.
It’s not as if there had been a pattern of slow starts for Nowitzki over a long period. He’s averaging 5.1 points per first quarter this season, which is his lowest of any quarter but not by a significant margin. His first-quarter shooting percentages (53.4 on field goals and 44.8 on 3-pointers) are his best of any frame.
“I don’t see it as an issue,” Carlisle said. “If it becomes an issue, I’ve got to get it resolved.”
That’s exactly what happened in Wednesday’s win.