There was nothing the Houston Rockets could do in order to stop Dirk Nowitzki from moving up the all-time scoring charts, as his 31 points put him at 13th, and more importantly giving the Dallas Mavericks a 111-104 win.
The only time the Rockets looked close to reasonable on defense was when Dwight Howard was on the floor. However, he did need a few minutes of rest, and in those moment the Mavs made the most of the situation, outscoring the Rockets by 10 points during those 7 minutes.
The Rockets played well offensively to keep them ahead until midway through the third quartet. Monta Ellis and Vince Carter began a 13-1 run, and the Mavs never looked back. Meanwhile, Nowitzki was unleashing the full arsenal of his shooting ability, finishing with 11-of-18 from the field. Ellis scored 18 points on an awful shooting night (4-of-16) which was an example of how this player refuses to think at times. There wasn’t a single player on the Rockets perimeter capable of handling his drives to the basket, yet he preferred taking bad mid-range jumper after the other. The ease in which he was able to get to the line helped his final stat line a bit.
The Mavs aren’t the most complete team in the West. They’re not great at defense, their center acts like he forgets how to play basketball at times, and their backup point guard, Gal Mekel, is a borderline D-League player for most teams. However, teams that can’t defend during certain minutes are going to have a lot of problems with them, because Nowitzki is still an almost impossible player to shut down completely without sacrificing something from your team defense, while Ellis and Calderon, along with Carter giving his two cents off the bench, can be a very difficult perimeter tandem to handle.
The Mavs did give up 60 points in the paint, which is something that will happen against the Rockets when they mostly focus on Dwight Howard, but they have the firepower to make up for it. If Nowitzki keeps defying the effects of time and is actually getting better due to the injury being further and further away from him, maybe there’s more to aspire to for the Mavs than just returning to the playoffs, and actually dreaming of having a longer postseason run than anyone expected from them.
Nowitzki himself thinks he still has some way to go before he reaches the scoring and efficiency levels he was in a few years ago, feeling like the injury that made him miss so much of last season still has its effect on him, but it is slowly wearing off.
The driving the ball is what’s missing a little now. I do a lot of one or two dribble and then up, but I want to get back to driving some more to the basket and get to the foul line. I don’t think I’m in ’11 shape, but compared to the last two years I feel a lot better. The right knee is great and I feel better.