Dirk Nowitzki makes first start

Updated: January 5, 2013, 11:22 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- Mavericks star forward Dirk Nowitzki made his first start of the season Saturday night in a 99-96 OT loss to New Orleans Hornets.

Nowitzki finished a team-high 20 points in 34 minutes, his most extensive action this season. He missed a free throw with 18 seconds left in regulation that would have put the Mavericks ahead by a point.

There was a huge ovation when the 11-time All-Star was introduced in front of the home crowd.

After missing 27 games while recovering from preseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Nowitzki came off the bench in his first six appearances of the season. He practiced with the Mavs' starters for the first time Friday, a couple days after setting season highs with 19 points in 29 minutes during an overtime loss to the Miami Heat.

"I felt like the best I've felt out there," Nowitzki said Friday. "I don't think the wind is a big deal or wasn't the last couple of games. It's more the legs and the explosiveness and the push-off and switching directions. So that was the major problem I thought the last ten days I've been back, or whatever.

"That was the best I've felt, in Miami. So I've got to keep on working, hopefully get 100 percent here sometime soon."

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says it sure feels better to have Nowitzki back on the floor.

Nowitzki is averaging 10.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 22 minutes in his six appearances off the bench as he worked himself back into form.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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