Nowitzki scored 51 points on Tuesday, but the Mavericks lost 122-121 to Golden State on Jason Richardson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The point total was his highest ever in regulation and two shy of a career high, making 16-of-24 from the field and 16-of-17 at the free-throw line.
“The numbers don’t mean anything in a loss,” Nowitzki said. “Whether I score five points or 60, a loss is still a loss.”
Dallas made all 31 of its free throws before missing three of its seven attempts in the final 30 seconds. Jason Terry scored 29 points, but missed a free throw that would have given the Mavericks a three-point lead with 4 seconds left.
“We’re disappointed with the way we finished the game,” Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. “Our defense wasn’t very good tonight. We gave up 65 points in the second half. We had a lot of things go wrong defensively.”
Johnson’s team allowed Richardson to score 40 points and gave up more than 100 points for the first time in 10 games.
Dallas, which is 22-4 against the East this season, had just 10 healthy players against Golden State as Josh Howard (hamstring), Adrian Griffin (hamstring), Keith Van Horn (sprained knee) and Devin Harris (thigh) all remained sidelined. Van Horn, who has not played since March 3, could return against Atlanta.
The Mavericks are just 8-5 this month after going 23-3 in January and February combined.
They get two days off following this game before continuing the road trip against the East-leading Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. Dallas visits Cleveland the next night before closing the trip in Orlando next Friday.
While the Mavericks continue battling San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference, Atlanta owns the third-worst record in the East.
Reserve Josh Childress had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks, who allowed the 76ers to score a season-high 67 points in the first half.
“We haven’t had many games like that where we weren’t in the game,” said coach Mike Woodson, whose Hawks have lost two straight and six of seven.