DALLAS — Despite entering the NBA All-Star break having dropped back-to-back outings in disappointing fashion to fall three games behind Denver in the race for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff position, the Dallas Mavericks slide into the midseason layoff encouraged by the recent play of superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
Scoring 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting and 4 of 6 from three-point range Wednesday night during a hard-fought 98-91 loss at Detroit, Nowitzki also grabbed 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. He got on a roll in the third quarter as well after the Mavericks (22-34) fell behind by as many as 27, posting 13 points during the period as the team eventually crept to within single digits. And with Nowitzki back to playing at an elite level following an injury-plagued first half of the season, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is confident that his team can make a playoff push after the break.
“It was vintage, and we needed it because it energized us even more,” Carlisle said after Nowitzki crept to within 93 points of reaching 30,000 for his career during Wednesday’s loss. “We obviously needed the points on the board to make up the deficit, but it’s clear he’s feeling better and better. So, you know, the countdown continues.”
Hampered by a right Achilles strain during the first portion of the season, Nowitzki has played in 30 games while averaging 13.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists an outing. He’s also shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three-point range. However, with his health issues seemingly behind him, those numbers appear to be on the rise as Nowitzki rounds back into form.
Nowitzki has seen his best production this season so far during the month of February, averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in eight games. The 38-year-old is shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three-point range during the month, showing signs of rekindling his elite offensive skill set. And with the lengthy All-Star break likely to rejuvenate the 7-footer even more, Nowitzki believes he will once again be at his best when the Mavericks resume play next Friday night in Minnesota.
“I mean, a break is always good. You know, I’ll get away a few days,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously, I will be working hard with lifting and running some, so once I get back I can hopefully step right back in. It’s about that time, and [Nowitzki’s longtime mentor Holger Geschwindner] is coming. He’s coming after the break and dragging me into the gym, so I’m just trying to keep rolling. You know, it’s been a tough year for me with the injury and missing almost two months, and I basically had to start from zero. It was ugly at times, but I knew it was going to get better. I just had to fight through it and keep working. It was frustrating at times, like I said, but I’m glad I’m feeling a little bit better. My legs are better, and I’m just trying to help the team win some games and hopefully start to string some wins together after the break to really make this a race.”
Note: The Mavericks will now begin play after the All-Star break next Friday night in Minnesota, taking on the Timberwolves. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270.
The Mavs return to their home floor on Feb. 25, hosting the New Orleans Pelicans. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out