*Both the revamped Orlando Magic and the keep-on-truckin' Mavericks took the court Tuesday night in Orlando on the second night of back-to-backs, and both mirrored their results from the previous night as Dallas took the victory.
And, wearing the badge of another win, Nowitzki passed Larry Bird with 11:18 remaining in the fourth quarter to stake sole possession of spot No. 25 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Now on to the next one: Gary Payton sits only 15 points away.
But he'll have to wait. The Mavs get five Christmas Week days off from games. … and has a working holiday ever been more earned?
"It's obviously an unbelievable accomplishment to be a top-25 scorer in an amazing league with an amazing history and amazing players," Nowitzki said. "It'll mean more to me once my career is over and in 15 or 20 years I'll look back at what I accomplished and will be more proud.''
*There's little doubt Dirk would have taken the win over his vault within the NBA's record books, but it's Christmas time … and in the generous spirit of the holidays, he got both.
The UberMan scored a quick eight points in the first quarter, making the passing of Bird feel imminent for the remainder of the night. But, it was not until the 11:18 mark in the final period that he scored again, sinking a rather large 3-point basket and putting the Mavs up nine (at the time).
*Dirk didn't have one of his best games, shooting only 4-of-13 from the floor on his way to 17 points … two of which came on clutch free throws with only 24 seconds remaining that pushed the Mavs lead from two to four. Some props to Hedo, who played the sort of inspired defense we've seen from him … NEVER.
*Nowitzki's FTs seemed particularly important in that moment with Orlando fresh off of two big 3's from Jason Richardson. … who couldn't quite nail down that last one.
*The Mavs center duo once again performed well.
Brendan Haywood did something Tyson Chandler could not. He came with the size to slow Dwight Howard. There was no stopping Howard here, as he put up a game-high 26 points and 23 rebounds – something that's been a nightly occurrence in recent Orlando games.
But, Haywood did prove to be enough of a hindrance to what Howard wanted to do to help curb what could have been an even bigger night for the best center in the league.
Big Wood finished with four points and four rebounds, but it was his banging with Howard that acted as his biggest contribution.
Of course, praising Haywood does not take away from the accomplishments of Tyson Chandler (and vice versa). TY had it going on the other end.
Of Chandler's first 11 points, 10 came on powerful two-handed dunks. In the fourth he delivered another crucial dunk over a contesting Howard, and took a hard hit to the head in the process. As has become a fairly common occurrence – speaking of common occurrences among All-Star-worthy centers -- Chandler didn't get the call.
He finished with 16 points – as fine an offensive night as you can ask of him -- with four rebounds and a steal.
There's likely a little bias involved here on our part, but does anyone get fewer calls in the paint than Chandler?
*Caron Butler, through three quarters, was the best player on the court in a Mavs uniform … and he was once again a primary offensive option in the third quarter, where he scored eight of his 20 points.
An interesting moment also came in the third, when Butler waived away the rest of the offense with his former teammate Gilbert Arenas defending. You could see the desire to score – ol' Wiz vs. ol' Wiz -- and a moment later the ball was falling crisply though the net.
*On a side note: There is a very reasonable counter to this (or two) in Shawn Marion's consistently effective defensive play, but it can be frustrating to watch Butler perform as the best Mav on the court for three quarters (since the Nov. 27 win over Miami, he's been a pretty-much automatic eight-points-in-the-third scorer, among the NBA leaders -- only to sit the entire fourth.
Of course, that second counter argument trumps any frustration … and that's the fact that the Mavs just keep winning.
Hard to argue, or be frustrated with that.
*Butler was the Mavs leading scorer with 20, and was joined by five other Dallas players in double digits: Dirk (17), Chandler (16), Jason Kidd (13), Jason Terry (13) and DeShawn Stevenson (11).
This was Rick Carlisle's training camp dream scenario, right?
"Dirk's as great a player as there is in this league right now, but for us to go where we want to go, we have to give him a lot of support,'' Carlisle said. "Six guys in double figures is huge.''
*Jason Kidd added another double-double to his resume, as well as another handful of clutch plays late that helped put the game away.
On the second night of a back-to-back, Kidd refused to show his age, and totaled 13 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.
*Now, back to All-Dirk-All-The-Time:
*With 21,798 points, Nowitzki is only 15 away from catching the next guy on the NBA's all-time scoring list: Gary Payton with 21,813 points.
*If Dirk can maintain a 24-point average over the remaining 54 games, he will also pass Clyde Drexler for the 23rd spot with 22,195 points … and would be only 55 points away from catching Elgin Baylor at the next spot (assuming Kevin Garnett, who is currently 871 points ahead of Dirk, will maintain some margin)
*On his resume: All-NBA 1st Team four times, including three in a row (2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07) … and All-NBA 10 straight years total.
*He has led the Mavs in scoring AND rebounding for 10 straight seasons … though that stands to end this year with Chandler averaging 9.2 boards to Dirk's 7.6 (entering Tuesday night).
*Kobe Byrant's career best PER has been 28.0. Dirk's best was 28.1 the year the Mavs reached the Finals.
In the playoffs, the supposedly non-clutch (according to some dunderheads) Nowitzki has five times bested Kobe's career high playoff PER of 26.1.
Dirk's top five Playoff PER performances: 28.4, 28.3, 27.5, 26.8 and 26.3.
He's also led the league in PER twice; first in 2005-06 with 28.1 and then in 2006-07 with 27.6.
This isn't to compare Dirk and Kobe as players; we're biased, not stupid. It's only to point out where Dirk stands in relevance to a player many consider to currently be the best in the game … particularly in the playoffs.
He's not Kobe. He's not Bird. He's The UberMan, the 13-year centerpiece of a franchise that keeps doing what it does, having won its fourth game in a row and its 16 wins in the last 17 games.
The postgame congratulatory phone call? It was a text, actually, from Larry Bird to Carlisle, his friend and former Celtics teammate. And then Bird contacted Dirk, too.
Messages were passed. And in a way, a baton, too.