Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant have been scoring at will during the first two months of the season. They’ll go head-to-head for the first time this season when the Dallas Mavericks host the Los Angeles Lakers.
Nowitzki was named the Western Conference’s player of the month after averaging 27.2 points, 9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in December. He started the new year with a bang as well, scoring 39 points in Sunday’s 123-104 rout of Milwaukee—Dallas’ third straight win.
Nowitzki has already put together 11 30-point games this season, and is third behind Bryant and NBA-leader Allen Iverson in the race for the league’s scoring title.
The highlight of Nowitzki’s spectacular month came on Dec. 2, when he scored a career-high 53 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in a 113-106 victory over Houston. He also made all but one of his 22 free throws that night.
“I have to be aggressive on the offensive end,” Nowitzki said. “Usually when I’m aggressive, it helps my teammates because I demand a little more attention. I’ve been trying to mix it up, drive a little more this year and get to the basket or get fouled.”
While Nowitzki has been lighting it up for the Mavericks, Bryant has found his groove with the Lakers over the past few weeks. He put together three straight 40-point efforts, including a season-high 48 against Toronto on Dec. 28, before being held to 17 points on 5-of-16 shooting in Tuesday’s 100-83 loss in San Antonio.
The performance was Bryant’s worse since he had just 11 points in an 82-72 loss to Memphis on Dec. 20.
“Tonight was a bit of a rude awakening,” Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. “We tried our first option offensively and they were just too good defensively.”
Bryant pointed at the Lakers’ ineffective defense as the reason for the loss.
“Every time we tried to get back in it, they hit another big shot,” Bryant said. “They just move the ball so well and space you out. They play with such a purpose it’s tough to keep up.”
Slava Medvedenko scored 16 points in the fourth quarter for Los Angeles, which had won three of its previous four games.