At some point, the fantastic ride that’s been the Dirk Nowitzki career is going to be over, and one of the most unique basketball players of all-time will step down, leaving a huge hole for the Dallas Mavericks and the NBA to fill. His 21 points in the 100-97 win over the New Orleans Hornets weren’t unique in his body of work compared to this season or in the past, but it was yet another example of just how special he is.
The Mavs are rebounding quite nicely from their worst season in over a decade. They have Monta Ellis to provide additional scoring, although he wasn’t anything special against the Pelicans, finishing with 14 points, more than 7 points below his average this season. Nowitzki led his team, scoring over 21 points on back-to-back nights, which isn’t something you can just glance over when it’s a 35 year old.
Nowtizki is averaging 20.9 points a night this season and slightly better over the last five game. It’s not just his shooting. He grabbed 7 rebounds, including a big one with the clock winding down to hit the two most important free throws of the game, just before Ryan Anderson missed a three point attempt that would have tied the game.
It could have gone either way. Finally, we were on the other end one time in execution and getting some stops and getting some big rebounds. It was definitely a good one to get against a very good team.
This wasn’t a perfect game, not for Nowitzki, not for the Mavs. They were outrebounded 58-53 by the younger, more athletic Pelicans, who are still without Anthony Davis. He actually missed two free throws, which rarely happens for a man who is shooting 92.9% from the line this season. He criticized himself for trying to make tough shots instead of finding the open man when he was double teamed. Even the Ryan Anderson thing made him feel like the Mavs dodged a bullet, as the defense left a 55.6% three-point shooter wide open with 2 seconds left to tie the game.
But the Mavs and Nowitzki aren’t going to succeed this season with defense, simply because they don’t have the right personnel to become a lockdown team. This team is about the offense – great ball movement and a lot of talent, most it coming when Nowitzki and Ellis have the ball in their hands, while Vince Carter turns it on and off while coming from the bench. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 from the field in one of his better night recently.
The Mavs are now 12-8, which in the Western Conference right now is good enough for 7th, but things will change. It might mean that the job of finding a replacement and building a new team hasn’t been going too well for Cuban over the last three years if Nowitzki, at his age, is still the man everything rises and falls upon, but it’s more of a compliment to the German, who’ll retire at some point without really changing the league, but that’s because there was never a player quite like him, and probably won’t be someone similar ever again.