Mavs Donuts: Dirk Nowitzki Is 'Semi-High'
It was a back and forth game Tuesday night. The Dallas Mavericks put on display a lot of their "juggernaut'' traits and also exposed a handful of their bad habits, all while earning a hard fought 106-98 victory. You can read more about it below and in Power Points, but anybody who watched the game and anybody who is reading about the game -- with its 24-point early deficit and its big Dallas comeback -- will agree ...
The night was all about Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki reached another huge milestone in his Hall-of-Fame career on Tuesday when he scored his 26,948th point, passing Hakeem Olajuwon as the ninth all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Passing Olajuwon also made him the all-time leading scorer among international players.
The accomplishment came with 8:55 left in the third quarter on a 19-foot jumper from the left elbow over Carl Landry. The game kept going, but the AAC crowd was smart enough to understand that history had just been made. There was a standing ovation as the Kings tried — unsuccessfully — to initiate an offense. Seconds later Nowitzki was fouled. He went to the free-throw line while being serenaded with an “M-V-P” chant.
“Yeah, it was special to do it in front of the home crowd,'' Dirk said with his customary "aw-shucks'' humility. "They knew exactly how many points I needed and then I made that one jumper at the top of the key and I missed like two or three before that but then I made it and they gave me a standing ovation so it was a special moment.
"You know, to pass 'The Dream' is unbelievable. I was watching the NBA in the 90s. I was a huge fan and obviously when MJ retired those two years they (Houston) won back-to-back championships. He was unguardable on the block. His footwork, his skill level, his hands, his touch was second to none so I’m pretty proud.”
The accomplishment was announced during the next timeout and was answered by a deafening response by Dirk's home crowd. It was a moment that few fans of any team in sports are allowed to enjoy: pure pride and respect for an athlete who humbly represented himself for the city he represents and the league he has helped make great.
Tuesday was a reminder that the Mavericks have been blessed with one of the best basketball players to ever step on an NBA court. And as we've said for years and years at DB.com: Cherish this thing. Hug it. Keep it. Don't take it for granted. Because Dirk doesn't last forever.
Though his memories will.
It was a historic moment in Dallas. And there will be more. (Maybe we should review how we got here, though, milestone-wise, eh?)
Barring injury, Nowitzki will move two more spots into seventh place in all-time scoring. It is quite possible that he passes Elvin Hayes before the New Year. From there, Moses Malone will be the next to check off the list. If Dirk picks up his scoring averages later in the season he will even have a chance at passing Shaquille O’Neal into the sixth spot all-time.
Outside of seeing him win his first championship, watching Dirk pass legend after legend might be the most satisfying experience any Maverick fan can ask for.
“It’s unbelievable, the accomplishment, but he’s going to pass more guys coming up,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "It’s just a tribute to his greatness. Guys like him that live their entire life committed to excellence are able to do things like this and that is why he is so special.”
Early in the season the Mavericks were vaulting to fast starts in the first quarter and coming out absolutely flat in the third quarter. On Tuesday, the opposite was true.
The Mavericks missed their first six shots of the game against the Kings and immediately fell behind 8-0.
They shot just 4-of-17 (23 percent) in the first quarter and were trailing 32-14 going into the second. Nowitzki, Parsons, and Ellis scored zero points in the period. It was the Mavericks’ worst quarter of the season thus far.
However, this time around, Dallas came out of halftime ready to make up a 57-48 halftime deficit. They outscored the Kings 30-15 in the third quarter and took a 78-72 lead going into the final period. As a team they shot 50 percent in the third. It was their best third quarter of their season thus far.
“We did a great job in the second half,'' Carlisle said. "I thought our second quarter was a lot better than the first. In the second half the difference in the game was our point guards putting pressure on the ball and making it harder for them to get into their stuff. Those guys exerted a lot of energy. Twice we had guys ask to come out because they were tired, which is what you want, because that means you are playing to full exhaustion. Those guys were the difference makers in the second half.”
If the third quarter rut Dallas had been in earlier was partially a mental issue then it’s quite possible they have broken free from that burden. We hope.
"Dirk, I can’t say enough about,” TY said. “It sounds weird, but how proud I am of him and the things that he’s been able to accomplish. He’s the most humble player. He’s an example for us all and every young player coming up of what hard work and dedication can do and the things that you can accomplish in this league. He was a player that was almost (written) off earlier in his career, and there was a lot of people that didn’t think he was going to play in this league or be able to play in this league. But this organization believed in him and a few people around him believed in him, and he continued to work and continued to believe in himself. And you see where he’s at now.”
Jameer Nelson went down in the fourth quarter, clearly grabbing his hamstring. He left the game and did not see any more action.
“We think he’s going to be OK,” Carlisle said. “It was scary when he hit the ground … We’re hoping it’s nothing serious. It doesn’t seem like it at this point.”
With Raymond Felton still unavailable due to injury and an impending four-game suspension, any long-term absence from Nelson would seriously the guard depth of the Mavericks. Nelson will receive treatment today and be further evaluated. Don’t be surprised if Nelson is given the night off on Thursday as the 0-7 Philadelphia Sixers come to town.
By the way, all the Mavs are getting the day off today. No practice. Rest and reflection.
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Foul trouble has been a serious issue for Monta Ellis through eight games. He has picked up a lot of first-quarter ticky-tack fouls trying to prevent guards from penetrating to the basket. Before Tuesday’s game Carlisle pointed out that it was no coincidence that Dallas’ worst two losses (against Portland and Miami) were both games in which Ellis spent long spurts on the bench in foul trouble.
Obviously this is a huge problem because Ellis is still the Mavericks’ best creator on offense. It’s also troublesome because Ellis has shown a lot of frustration each game in which he has fallen in foul trouble and it has affected his defense. He is a passable defender when he is focused and committed, but when he gets frustrated he becomes lackadaisical and leaves shooters open.
“He’s been averaging way below his usual minutes because of foul trouble,” Carlisle said after Tuesday’s game. “And some of the calls have been really tough calls.”
Ellis went into halftime against the Kings with zero points and one assist.
In the second half, Ellis refrained from fouling and we got a reminder of the kind of weapon he is. In the last two quarters, he scored 16 points and dished out three assists. He hit a buzzer-beater three fading away off of one leg at the end of the third, giving the Mavericks momentum going into the fourth.
“He hit shots and made plays in the second half,” Carlisle said of Ellis, a true thermometer of Dallas' 5-3 start.
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Carlisle went with some hyperbole prior to the game concerning the topic of Rudy Gay.
When asked what allowed Gay to be so successful against the Mavericks in his career, Carlisle said, “He jumped over us and made shots. That’s one of the things he does as well or better than anybody else … Jordan could do that. Kobe Bryant could do that. LeBron James could do that … He’s one of those guys that can do that. That’s what makes special offensive players.”
Carlisle might have been yanking our chain a bit, but he wasn’t kidding about the damage Gay has been able to inflict on Dallas. In three games last season, he averaged over 32 points per game and shot over 60 percent.
He was just as relentless on Tuesday, scoring 26 points off of 50-percent shooting to go along with eight assists and eight rebounds. Sacramento still can't win in Dallas; that's 21 straight victories for the Mavs over this opponent at home. But some respect for the Kings is due, from Rick before the game to Dirk after.
"They are a good team,'' Nowitzki said. "They are well-coached, they play hard and they have some playmakers so they really took it to us early. ... Then we adjusted. I thought we picked up our pressure a little bit. Our guards picked up full-court and we tried to get the crowd into it with hard play, by smart play and we got to the foul line some and that helped. But overall I thought our energy was great in the second half. We were all over the place, we were helping each other and we were pushing the ball.
"That’s how we’ve got to play if we want to win. Every game is tough. There are a lot of good teams especially in the West so we’ve got to bring it every night.”
This is about the "lack of competitiveness'' that Rick cited after the loss to Miami, about how the Kings are growing but not yet grown, and about a lesson that Dallas is a good-enough team to overcome early 24-point holes but should therefore be a good-enough team to avoid such a ridiculous deficit in the first place.
“I’m humbled to keep climbing the ladder, blessed to stay healthy, and play at a semi-high level, I guess,” Dirk said.
Semi-high, huh? He beats Sacto with 23 points off of 7-of-12 shooting, with seven rebounds and three assists, all probably enough to remove the “semi” part.
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