Dirk Nowitzki is a team guy. He moved into the top-10 in NBA all-time scoring, passing Oscar Robertson on Tuesday night at Utah, yet all he really wanted to focus on was how big a win this was for his team’s chances for the playoffs, capping a 4-0 road trip at just the right time.
Nowitzki is easily on Dallas’ sports “Mount Rushmore,” and coach Rick Carlisle defined him post-game as a once-in-a-generational player.
We’ve never seen the likes of Dirk in these parts, whose name will be up with Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain in the top-five scorers one day. A statue will stand in Victory Plaza, along with Mike Modano – icons who are synonymous with their teams.
The big win that Nowitzki was focusing on happened because the entire team was hotter than your car hood parked in front of your house in August. In fact, the Mavericks set a franchise record for shooting percentage in a period, going 16-of-17 (.941) en route to an early 14-point lead. It was the best shooting quarter in the NBA since November of 2010 by the Pacers and Dallas’ best since the old franchise record in 1991 (an 18-20 frame) vs. San Antonio.
Dallas never looked back after that first quarter. The Mavs led, 79-59, late in the third and was never threatened. The win gave Dallas a six-game road winning streak and put them in a solid position to make the playoffs after a year hiatus.
The Mavericks’ magic number is now two to clinch a playoff berth. Any Maverick wins or Memphis Grizzlies losses adding up to two will send the Mavs back to the post-season.
Dallas has three games left, beginning with a tough one on Thursday night at home vs. the Spurs. The Mavs then host Phoenix on Saturday before closing out the season next Wednesday at Memphis.
Phoenix is currently in the eighth and final playoff spot, right behind Dallas, with Memphis currently on the outside looking in. Golden State is in the sixth spot, and certainly could be caught by the Mavericks. The Warriors’ schedule is home to the Nuggets, at the Lakers, at the Blazers, home to the Timberwolves, then closing it out at Denver. Only three games separate spots six through nine as the season comes to a close.
Dirk’s numbers continue to grow, and he showed his leadership and character post-game when he focused on the team win over his personal accolades. He’s proud of passing the Big O, but Nowitzki has his sights on the playoffs.
When you’ve scored 26,714 points, winning comes with the territory.