Critics said that Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t the same, that he wouldn’t be the same Dirk after coming back from knee surgery last season.
Nowitzki has proved them wrong, and remains a star in the league as he went for 24 and 40 points in a home-and-home sweep over the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 10 and 11.
Nowitzki missed the first 27 games last season after his first major surgery of his career. He went on to miss 29 games overall, but after a full offseason to get even more healthy and better, Nowitzki looks more and more like vintage Dirk as the season goes on.
Of course, Dirk isn’t scoring as much as before, only because of Monta Ellis around, but still possess the beautiful shot that he’s had for the duration of his 16 years in the NBA.
After falling flat against the Knicks and Spurs (where Nowitzki scored a season-low eight points) this week, and beating up on the Lakers in which Dirk scored 27 points, the Mavs got back on track against the injury-plagued Pelicans. New Orleans was without Jrue Holiday and leading scorer Ryan Anderson in a 107-90 loss on Friday, then didn’t have Tyreke Evans in a 110-107 loss on Saturday.
Dallas had its way on Friday, leading by 13 at the half. Nowitzki scored a team-high 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting, 4-of-8 from three. Dirk filled the stat sheet up with four rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks in just 28 minutes.
Ellis and Vince Carter added 23 and 14, respectively.
Dallas made a season-high 14 3-pointers. The Mavs had 32 assists on 41 field goals.
The Mavericks had a little more trouble at home in Saturday’s win as they shot just 2-of-16 in the opening quarter.
The two field goals matched the lowest mark for field goals made in a first quarter since the 2002-03 season (2012).
Dallas found its rhythm soon after, shooting 7-of-16 in the second quarter, and 21-of-34 in the second half.
New Orleans was up 26-19 in the second quarter before the Mavs finished the half out on a 23-11 run to take a 42-37 lead into the break.
Something happened in the locker room during halftime. I don’t know if it there was something in the water or Rick Carlisle and Monty Williams said something, but both teams lit up the American Airlines Center in the third quarter, led by Dirk.
Nowitzki missed his first shot of the quarter, but proceeded to make his next seven before missing his final shot. He was 7-of-9 in the quarter for 20 points, including hitting all four of his 3-point attempts. He entered the fourth with 33 points. Both teams combine for 82 points in the quarter. (Mavs 42-40).
Dirk finished with his 19th-career 40-point game. The Mavs are 15-4 in those contests. He finished 5-of-9 from behind the arc.
Ellis and Jose Calderon added 26 and 17, respectively. Nowitzki and Calderon went a combine 9-of-16 from three.
The Pelicans came back to lead 91-90, but after they led 95-92, the Mavs went on a 14-4 run before hanging on for the win.
The Mavericks went to the line 45 times, making 39 free throws.
After the game, Nowitzki said he felt like he was 45-years-old rather than 35. “It looked in the first half like the fourth game in five nights for both teams,” Nowitzki said. “So we figured it was going to be a grind-out game. And the next thing you know, the basket just opened up on both sides. Then all of a sudden, we couldn’t get any stops. We gave up 70 points in the second half, so that was terrible.”
In those two wins, Dirk had 64 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, five steals, and two blocks, while shooting 20-of-39 (51.3 percent) from the field, 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) from three, and 15-of-16 (93.8 percent) from the line. He committed just one turnover in 61 minutes of action.
Dallas moves to 22-16, 13-6 at home, and into a tie with the Suns for 7th in the Western Conference.
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 49 points, 27 rebounds, and five blocks in 80 minutes of action. New Orleans has lost five in a row and six of its last seven to move to 15-21, six games behind Dallas. The Pelicans would be a half game up on the Nets for 8th in the East.
Nowitzki eclipsed 1,000-career steals against the Spurs and joined Kareem, The Mailman, Garnett, and Hakeem as the only players in NBA history to have at least 25,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, and 1,000 steals. His five 3-pointers on Saturday marked a season high, and passed Brent Barry for 24th all time (1,399).
The Mavericks lost Shawn Marion against the Lakers to a bruised shoulder and ribs. Wayne Ellington started versus the Spurs, while Jae Crowder started against the Pelicans in both games. Marion may return Monday against the Magic.
Dallas finishes this short two-game home stand on Monday before playing the next five of six on the road before finishing the month out with three straight at home.
In the Mavs’ three wins over the week, Nowitzki averaged 30.3 points, five rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.6 steals, while shooting 45 percent from three, and 32-of-59 (54 percent) overall.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsBW1d07tfs (Jan. 11 highlights)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdBs50A0ejU (Jan. 10 highlights)