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Thursday, January 12, 2012
3-pointer: Just another Dirk game-winning drive

By Tim MacMahon

Dirk Nowitzki spent the early stages of his career as a 7-foot decoy when the game was on the line, preferring to defer to Michael Finley and Steve Nash in such situations.

A strong case can now be made that there’s no better clutch player in the NBA.

Nowitzki’s and-1 drive to beat the Boston Celtics was his 30th career game-winning bucket in the final 24 seconds of a game, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. That includes three drives for layups in the Mavs’ last 10 victories, including a couple in the NBA Finals.

“It’s a fun situation to be in,” Nowitzki said.

The only active players with more game-winners than Nowitzki are Kobe Bryant and new teammate Vince Carter, neither of whom has been nearly as efficient with the clock ticking down and the outcome in doubt.

A few more noteworthy items from the Mavs’ gritty win in Beantown:

1. The 16-point performance was actually Dirk’s lowest-scoring output in Boston during his career. The Celtics killer had averaged 27.8 points in his previous 12 trips to Boston. Nine of Nowitzki’s 16 points came during the fourth quarter.

2. Jason Terry scored seven points in the final 3:15. That’s far from surprising from the sixth man who has long served as Dirk’s scoring sidekick. There are seven players who have ranked among the league’s top 25 in clutch points per minutes in four full seasons that has tracked the statistic: Bryant, Nowitzki, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Manu Ginobili, Dwyane Wade and Terry.

3. The Mavs are a pretty good bet in games that go down to the wire. This win improved their record in games decided by three or fewer points to 30-13 in regular seasons under coach Rick Carlisle. No team has more wins in such games in that span. The Mavs have ranked second in the NBA in three-points-or-fewer victories in each of the last three seasons, but this was their first of this campaign.