Dirk hangs 29 on Utah in the 4th quarter

Dirk Nowitzki exploded against Utah on Nov. 3, 2009.

Detroit’s Reggie Jackson made headlines this week when he scored 26 points in the fourth quarter as the Pistons notched a huge comeback win against the Portland Trail Blazers. It was the most points scored in the final frame since 2009, when a fellow named Dirk Nowitzki poured in 29 to lead the Mavs to a win of their own.

Let’s set the table a bit here to understand just how crazy this was.

The date was Nov. 3, 2009. This was the very beginning of the 2009-10 season. The Mavs hadn’t yet won a championship and were coming off a second-round loss to the Denver Nuggets. Dallas’ biggest offseason acquisition was small forward Shawn Marion, and he shared the spotlight with Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and Jason Kidd. This was months before a mid-season trade brought Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas in exchange for longtime Maverick Josh Howard and others.

This was still the heart of Nowitzki’s prime, and to be quite honest he might have played the best basketball of his career in the fall of 2009 before a collision with Carl Landry in mid-December temporarily derailed his season. The two forwards violently bumped into one another and Landry’s teeth ended up embedded in Dirk’s elbow. Before that incident, he was averaging 26.9 points per game for a Mavs team that was 19-7.

All of that was still in the distant future for the Mavs, however. This was just the fourth game of the season and Nowitzki’s first three games were actually rather pedestrian — he averaged 26.3 points, but on 41.4 percent shooting, and Dallas was only 2-1. The Mavericks had dropped their home opener against the Wizards and were looking for their first home win of the young season.

The Jazz led 67-52 at the end of the third quarter, in what had been an ugly affair. At that point, both Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews were playing for Utah, and through the first three quarters Williams was cooking. He had 18 points to lead the Jazz. Meanwhile, Matthews was still buried on the depth chart as he was still only a rookie, but he did score 5 points in the fourth quarter. Everything was going right for Utah, and everything was going wrong for the Mavs.

Once the number on the scoreboard changed from “3” to “4,” however, Nowitzki turned it on. He shot 7-of-8 in the final frame and hit all 14 of his free throw attempts, tallying 29 points overall and 40 for the game. The NBA record for points in a fourth quarter is 31, set by Wilt Chamberlain in his 100-point game. Dallas wound up winning 96-85.

It was Nowitzki’s 29th straight game with at least 20 points, and the 29 points he notched in the fourth set the franchise record for most points in a single quarter.

“It was an ugly game,” Nowitzki told reporters after the game. “We couldn’t get anything going for three quarters. We were slow. We were looking for a spark offensively and I was able to do that tonight.”

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