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Monday, December 20, 2010
Dirk Nowitzki closes in on Larry Bird

By Jeff Caplan

MIAMI -- Dirk Nowitzki is 36 points away from tying Larry Bird for 25th on the NBA's all-time scoring list, a feat the 7-foot Dallas Mavericks forward will likely accomplish during this two-game trip through Florida.

Nowitzki, Dallas' all-time leading scorer, enters tonight's matchup at the Miami Heat with 21,755 career points. He'll reach Bird's mark of 21,791 points slightly faster than the Boston Celtics legend. Bird retired after 13 seasons, while Nowitzki is playing in his 13th.

Twice this season Nowitzki has scored 36 points or more. If he doesn't match or pass Bird, the player he was so often compared to early in his career because of his perimeter shooting, Nowitzki will likely do it Tuesday night at the Orlando Magic.

"It’s been an amazing ride," Nowitzki said. "But, stats like that you're going to be more proud of when you look back at your career in 10, 15, 20 years. You look back and I think that's when it's still special. Now I'm still chasing a dream. I'm still trying to help this franchise win. I still feel like I'm in my prime and I can score a couple more thousand hopefully."

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is in his third season with Nowitzki and he was Bird's teammate for three seasons in the mid-1980s, winning a championship in 1986. He sees more in common between the two than just their impeccable shooting.

"Both are extremely meticulous in their preparation, their dedication," Carlisle said. "The statistics are staggering, but both guys really were about winning first all the time. Dirk, if it was best for him to average 15 [points] and get eight or nine rebounds, if that was the best way to win he'd be all for that. Fortunately, for us he's an all-time great player like Larry was and we're trying to get to the top of the mountain."