First Impressions: Mavs 98, Suns 89
Dirk Nowitzki found himself surrounded by new friends, like a bunch of his first-year teammates. He found himself surrounded by old friends, like ex-Dallas Mavericks teammates Steve Nash (playing for the opposing Phoenix Suns) and Michael Finley (in the AAC audience). He found himself surrounded by unlikely friends, like Khloe and Kim Kardashian, stars of a reality TV show that Dirk has pledged to never watch.
But maybe most of all, Dirk just found himself. Period.
"I'm still working to get back to where I was," said Nowitzki, who played in his 1,000th career game on Wednesday and scored 20 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 98-89 win over the visiting Suns. "It's definitely good to get to 1,000 games. That's a lot of games … It's great and now we're looking for another 1,000.''
Nowitzki is kidding, of course. But he is convinced the defending champs have plenty of contention left in them, and in moving to 3-4, an assortment of his helpers led credence to that belief.
Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Lamar Odom all joined Nowitzki on the NBA All-Star ballot released earlier in the day, and all of them contributed to a team that touts depth as among its greatest strengths. Terry scored 18 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Marion played despite an illness and scored 13. Kidd orchestrated the second straight win for Dallas (and played in his appeared in his 1,274th regular-season game) and ex-Laker Odom – playing in front of his wife Khloe Kardashian and her sister Kim – had his best game as a Mav with 15 points and five rebounds.
The Mavs' primary rotation makes them the oldest team in the NBA, and when the lockout robbed the league of its normal training camp pace, it robbed Dallas of its chance to rely on its usual synchronization. Additionally, the Mavs' roster turned over as a result of free agency. Therefore, cohension – and conditioning and confidence – has come slowly. But while the Mavs began the season 0-3, they have won three of the last four, including back-to-back victories over the Thunder and now the Suns.
On Thursday the Mavs are in San Antonio. We'll have the telecast on FSSW and I'll join Bob Ortegel and Dana Larson in studio for the pre- and postgame shows, MAVS LIVE, all starting at 7 p.m. And if the Mavs get a win in the Alamo City? It's a .500 record, a mulligan, a chance to make some hay in a Southwest Division in which the Spurs will be without Manu and the Grizz will be without Randolph, each star maybe prepping to miss two months or so.
Phoenix was led by Nash, one of Dirk's closest friends, who registered 15 points and 12 assists for the 2-4 Suns. Marcin Gortat contributed 22 points and 10 rebounds. But did Dallas Get Kicked In The Gortats? Not really, because Dallas was strong as center, too, with Brendan Haywood grabbing 12 rebounds, part of Dallas' 53-42 rebounding edge. The Mavs also held a 51-21 edge in bench scoring.
"We said at the beginning, we're going to be a piece of work and everybody is going to come along and I think this team is more set up to peak down the stretch and not now," said Nowitzki, 33. "Everybody's got to work themselves back into shape, get the legs strong and play with each other more and I think we're going to be a good team down the stretch."
It was a watershed night, with Nowitzki's 1,000th game, the 12th anniversary of Mark Cuban buying the team, and another step in convincing the world that the defending champs are going to be a "good team.''
"It's coming,'' Kidd told me while applying his deodorant -- and then forgetting if he'd already applied it one time before. "See? I'm old. Forgetful. Really, we're old, but Dirk keeps us going. He's the youngest old guy around.''
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