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Thursday, January 9, 2014
Opening Tip: Spurs have Dirk's number?

By Tim MacMahon

SAN ANTONIO -- Perhaps it's not surprising that Dirk Nowitzki’s worst offensive performance of the season came against the San Antonio Spurs.

Nowitzki was held to a season-low eight points in Wednesday night's loss, matching his poorest shooting night of 2013-14 with a 3-of-14 night from the field.

It's the third time during the Dallas Mavericks' seven-game losing streak against the Spurs that Nowitzki has scored only eight points. He has averaged 14.4 points on 39.1 percent shooting in those seven games, numbers that are far below his norm.

His scoring against the Spurs is not a trend that ranks near the top of Nowitzki's list of worries, though.

"I just didn't have it today," Nowitzki said. "I had some great shots. I don't think he was doing anything different than he did last week, when I had 25. I just ran into quicksand out there today. I just never got going."

As Nowitzki noted, he scored 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the Mavs' previous loss to the Spurs. That performance is the exception for him recently in this series.

That hasn't always been the case, however. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich certainly couldn't figure out how to shut down the Mavs' all-time leading scorer for most of his career. Nowitzki has averaged 21.2 points against the Spurs over the course of his career. He has scored more than 40 twice against San Antonio and at least 30 on 19 occasions, including playoffs, most memorably a 37-point masterpiece in the Mavs' Game 7 win in the 2006 West semifinals.

It's not as if the Spurs have suddenly come up with exotic schemes to deal with Dirk, either.

"I think they double-teamed me a lot more in the past, come from the low side some, but now they're just living with a couple of jump shots and covering me one-on-one," Nowitzki said. "That's it."

In this case, the Spurs gave power forward Boris Diaw the bulk of the credit for Nowitzki’s off night. Tim Duncan and Popovich used the same word to describe Diaw's defense: "magnificent."

The Mavs don't have much of a chance to upset the team with the West's best record unless Nowitzki is magnificent. For whatever reason, he has been far from that for the most part against the Spurs in recent memory.