LOS ANGELES – Because the Staples Center is the only arena that has two NBA tenants, Dirk Nowitzki has played more games in this arena than in any other during his 21-year career.
Still, the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar forward had no problem identifying his most precious memory from playing in the Staples Center.
“It’s got to be when we beat the (Los Angeles ) Lakers here in the playoffs, when we swept them that year in the (2011 postseason) and we beat them twice here,” Nowitzki said following Monday morning’s shootaround. “Those big, big games stand out.
“Those two where we stole it here was probably the biggest games.”
In the 2011 playoffs, the Mavs won a rugged first-round series against Portland in six games, then faced the Lakers in the second round. At the time, the Lakers were the two-time defending NBA champions and were trying to three-peat as champions.
However, the Mavs won Game 1 (96-94) and Game 2 (93-81) at the Staples Center, then closed out the series by winning Game 3 (98-92) and Game 4 (122-86) at American Airlines Center.
From there, the Mavs beat Oklahoma City in five games in the Western Conference Finals, and then defeated Miami in six games in the NBA Finals.
As far as playing at the Staples Center goes, Nowitzki said: “It’s a great atmosphere, great building. The Lakers being here and the Clippers — always two good teams, great competition over the years. So I’m enjoying playing against some of the best in the West.”
Ironically, the Staples Center will serve as the site of a milestone for Nowitzki. When the Mavs (26-33) meet the Clippers (33-28) on Monday at 9:30 p.m., it will be the 1,500th game of Nowitzki’s illustrious career.
The only players who have played more games are Robert Parish (1,611), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) and John Stockton (1,504).
“I didn’t know that,” Nowitzki said, when told of the milestone. “That’s a lot of games.
“I’ve been obviously fortunate to be sort of injury free for a long, long time – no major injuries. And to be able to still play is a blessing. I’m still enjoying the competition, so hopefully I can finish the season.”