DALLAS – A perfect Monday night filled with drama, mystery and a little intrigue didn’t end so perfectly for the Dallas Mavericks.
Well, it sort of did.
An American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 20,276 came out in full force, ready to scream and shout to the top of their lungs and watch something that’s very rare in the NBA today. What they witnessed was history in the making as Dirk Nowitzki scored eight points and powered his way past Wilt Chamberlain to become the No. 6 all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
However, Nowitzki’s monumental achievement was tempered because Plano native Julius Randle poured in 30 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a wild 129-125 victory in overtime over the Mavs, who dropped to 28-42 on the season.
Nowitzki entered Monday’s game needing only four points to pass Chamberlain. And the 21-year veteran didn’t waste much time solving that mystery and putting to rest on whether this was going to be the night when he reached another impressive milestone.
“Before the year (started) I was only (233) points (from passing Chamberlain), and there were times when I thought I’m not going to make it the way the season went with the (foot) injury, and then coming off the injury I was super, super slow,” Nowitzki said. “But the last few weeks I felt better and I’ve been playing better, and the team obviously has kept looking for me and kept telling me to shoot.
“So, I’m glad it’s over with now. I tried to make it happen (this past Saturday at home against Cleveland) really bad. The atmosphere was amazing – I just couldn’t push it over the top. So, it was good today to just get it out of the way soon. But it’s still so surreal to past a long-time legend.”
The crowd went stir crazy when Nowitzki popped in a 21-footer on his first field goal attempt of the night with 9:51 to go in the first quarter. Then, the moment everyone had been waiting for finally happened.
Nowitzki got the ball near the top of the key off a pass from rookie Luka Doncic, then launched a feathery 20-footer that swished through the nets with 8:35 left in the first quarter. The crowd went ballistic, the players on Mavs’ bench were delirious, and shortly thereafter Nowitzki paused to take in all of the commotion surrounding his history-making shot.
“The first one (the Pelicans) switched. . .and I had a good look,” Nowitzki said. “And then the second one they switched again and I took my time and faced (Anthony Davis) up like I’ve done a million times and I tried to shoot over him – that’s what happened—and it went in and I was happy. It was good to just get it over with on my first two shots.”
Nowitzki now has 31,424 career points to 31,419 career points for Chamberlain.
Unfortunately, although the Mavs eventually built a 61-49 lead early in the third quarter, the air somewhat eerily left the building after Nowitzki climbed up the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
“The crowd was great,” coach Rick Carlisle said. (But) once he hit the mark, the energy and anticipation went down a bit. But it is no excuse for how the game ended.
“I thought we played a great first half as a team, but the second half was very poor in just about every area – from taking care of the ball, to rebounding, to shot-making. You name it.”
The Mavs actually had a chance to win this game after Doncic was undercut and fouled by ex-TCU standout Kenrich Williams with just 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation play and Dallas trailing 110-109. But Doncic, who has had his frequent struggles at the charity stripe this season, missed the first free throw attempt, then sank the second pressure-packed one to send things into overtime.
Doncic ended up registering his fifth triple-double of the season as he finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. But not only was he disappointed in the critical free throw he missed late in regulation play, the rookie from Slovenia also criticized himself for going 10-of-26 from the field.
“I took way too many shots,” Doncic said. “A night like this was way, way too many shots.”
In the overtime session, the Pelicans (31-42) opened up a 124-117 lead following a put-back basket and a 3-pointer by Frank Jackson with 40.3 seconds remaining.
Utilizing a 22-6 run, the Mavs bolted ahead, 101-94, with 3:36 left in regulation following a pair of free throws by Doncic. And it really seemed like the Mavs were going to be able to salt this game away after Doncic buried two more free throws for a 109-105 lead with only 19.1 seconds to go in regulation.
However, Elfrid Payton drilled a 3-pointer to trim the Mavs’ lead down to one point. Williams then stole an inexplicably poor inbounds pass by Tim Hardaway Jr., and Randle quickly dunked it and stunned the crowd and put New Orleans ahead, 110-109, with just 5.1 seconds left in regulation.
“We obviously made a lot of mistakes in the second half and a lot of mistakes when it got really tight at the end,” Carlisle said. “New Orleans made some great plays and we made some errors.
“We all own it. Everybody was in on everything in the second half. We have some stuff to look at and fix, and we have a tough road trip ahead.”
But before the Mavs start their three-game road trip on Wednesday in Portland, Carlisle started his postgame press conference by tipping his hat to Nowitzki.
“I just want to congratulate Dirk on surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time points scored (record),” Carlisle said. “It’s really a monumental historical accomplishment.
“Not many people on the outside know the kind of sacrifices he’s made to be on the floor to accomplish something like this. It’s just another credit to how he’s approached his entire career.”
NOTES: Besides the triple-double by Luka Doncic on Monday, the Mavs got 21 points and six rebounds from Tim Hardaway Jr., 16 points and eight rebounds from Dwight Powell,, and 14 points from rookie Jalen Brunson. Salah Mejri played perhaps his best game of the season as he collected a season-high nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in only 14 minutes. . .Maxi Kleber left the game for good with 4:59 left in regulation play after spraining his left wrist. The X-rays on Kleber’s wrist were negative. . .The Mavs shot 43.8 percent from the field, but misfired on 26 of their 35 shots from 3-point land.