DALLAS – Shortly after Miami beat Dallas, 112-101, in the Mavericks’ final game before the All-Star break, Dirk Nowitzki and Heat guard Dwyane Wade stood near midcourt and exchanged game jerseys.
Wednesday’s jersey swap – with a knot of cameras flashing — was final public confirmation that the two long-time combatants had put their bitter differences aside.
“I’ll cherish that jersey, obviously, knowing the great competition we had for such a long, long time,” Nowitzki said. “Like I said, he’s a great, great player, one of the greatest players we’ve had in our league.
“There were some rocky times in our relationship after ’06 both ways. There was some stuff said that both didn’t like, but at the end of he day we’re both competitors.”
The competitor in Nowitzki and Wade were on full display before an American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 20,364, as they both took turns turning back the clock. Wade scored a game-high 22 points in 22 minutes and was 9-of-14 from the field, while Nowitzki tallied 12 points in 17 minutes and was 5-of-14 from the field.
“They are two all-time great players and they both played great,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They both represent their teams and represent the game the right way.
“It’s special to see those guys out there at the same time.”
As far as the game itself goes, the Heat overcame a 58-57 halftime deficit and took control of things by outscoring the Mavs, 32-16, in the third quarter. The Mavs were just 4-of-22 from the floor and committed four turnovers in the third quarter when their offense went south.
“I know we gave into some high-risk plays (in the third quarter) as opposed to keeping it simple, which you have to do against them because they are very physical and very aggressive,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They made a point of really going after Luka (Doncic) all night, but you have to give them credit.
“They mix their defenses well and they had a good shot-making night, and we didn’t. One of the problems was I think we allowed our lack of shot-making affect our defense, and then you get into a real problem.”
Miami built its lead to as high as 21 points (97-76) with 8:53 remaining in the game. The Mavs, who are 26-31, could whittle the lead to no closer than 11 points.
Meanwhile, Doncic appeared on his way t recording his fourth triple-double of the season as he entered the fourth quarter with 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. However, the rookie from Slovenia finished the game with 18 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and was 5-of-17 from the field.
“He’s done a great job of attacking of attacking double-teams, but Miami’s quickness was a factor, and they deflected a lot of balls really all night long, not just Luka,” Carlisle said. “They had a lot of deflections off of aggressive defensive activity and we just didn’t make enough plays.
“We just weren’t good enough tonight.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Mavs with 20 points and Maxi Kleber added 11 points as Dallas shot 38.6 percent from the floor and missed 37 of its 52 shots from behind the 3-point line.
In the meantime, all eyes were on Nowitzki and Wade, who both are headed to the Hall of Fame, perhaps in the same year. Wade and the Heat beat the Mavs in six games in the 2006 NBA Finals, and Nowitzki and the Mavs beat the Heat in six games in the 2011 NBA Finals.
“There’s a great karma to each one of them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They are both winners, but humble winners.
“They have tremendous class and as soon as Wade got his opportunity to go one-on-one against him in the corner you just knew that somehow Dork was going to get him with an opportunity on the other end.”
That sequence certainly happened as Nowitzki found himself one-on-one with Wade, and he calmly buried a long jumper. After the game, the two legends shared a laugh or two.
“I never really swapped jerseys right after a game, so I felt a little naked in my (T-shirt) there and my tank top,” Nowitzki said. “But it was cool.
“It was a cool moment, obviously, and it’s been a long time coming.”
Knowing that he has already announced his retirement, Wade has been swapping jerseys in most the games he’s played this season. As for the one he swapped with Nowitzki, Wade said: “My best jersey swap of the year.
“Like I said, to be able to have that, he’s a Hall of Famer, somebody that obviously I’m proud of and have so much respect for. I’m just thankful that he didn’t turn me down and say no.”
Nowitzki said it never crossed his mind to turn Wade down.
“I think we’re older now. Wen you’re young and you compete, you’re stubborn,” Nowitzki said. “There were a few guys where I was just not that friendly with. We played against the (San Antonio) Spurs every year in the playoffs, and I didn’t love them guys, either.
“It comes with competing at the highest level. But at the end of the day were all in the same league, were one big family, even though we compete each other. We bring out the best in each other, and that’s that.”
NOTES: With the All-Star break here for the Mavs, the players will scatter and are not scheduled to return until they practice on Feb. 20. The Mavs’ next game is Feb. 22 at home against Denver. . .Two members of the Mavs will be very busy during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. Luka Doncic will play for the World Team against the U.S. Team in the Rising Stars game on Friday. He also will be in the Skills Challenge on Saturday. Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki will be the honorary coach for the World Team on Friday. He also will participate in the 3-point contest on Saturday, and will play in his 14th All-Star game on Sunday. . .Center Salah Mejri was back with the Mavs for Wednesday’s game following a short hiatus. The Mavs waived Mejri on Feb. 6, then re-signed him this past Sunday. “I strongly believe in God and whatever is written for us we’re going to see it,” said Mejri, who started Wednesday’s game. “I’m back here with the people that I care about and I love and I’ve been around for a long time. And this guy, I have to take care of. I was going to take care of him regardless if I wasn’t on the team.” Mejri was referring to Doncic. The two are close friends and were teammates on Real Madrid in Europe in 2015, and their lockers at American Airlines Center are next to each other.