Owners of the best record in the NBA, the Mavericks look for another solid team effort when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.
Despite second-leading scorer Josh Howard missing a second game due to the birth of his first child and Nowitzki struggling with his shot, Dallas (38-9) didn’t slip in a 95-94 win at Memphis on Wednesday. It was the Mavericks’ 24th win in their last 26 games.
Nowitzki finished with 26 points, but was just 8-for-20 from the field. Guard Jason Terry and reserve Jerry Stackhouse each had 20 points, while center Erick Dampier easily surpassed his season average of 7.7 points, scoring 15 on 6-of-7 shooting.
Dallas shot 42.5 percent from the field, but prevailed thanks in large part to making 24 of 25 free throws.
“Our guys really know how to handle adversity,” Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. “At the end of the year, this is going to count as a win. It’s not about how many you win by or who you play.”
Nowitzki, averaging 25.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, will play in his sixth straight All-Star game later this month. He is one of five Mavericks with scoring averages in double figures.
Howard, who could return Saturday, was not selected to the Western Conference All-Star roster despite averaging 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Terry (15.9 points per game), Stackhouse (11.1) and Devin Harris (10.5) have been the other key offensive contributors, while Dampier, who averages 7.8 rebounds, is capable of having big scoring games like he did against the Grizzlies.
“I just try to try to contribute any way I can,” Dampier said. “Guys are looking for me and making easy passes. All I have to do is catch them and finish around the rim.”
Dallas placed six players in double figures in a 93-87 home win over Minnesota on Nov. 27. The Mavericks have won 14 consecutive games at home, as well as their last three home meetings with the Timberwolves.
Minnesota (22-24) sports the same record it had through 46 games last season. The Timberwolves have lost two in a row since ending the Phoenix Suns’ 17-game winning streak on Monday, and eight of their last 10.
Minnesota lost for the fifth time in its last six road games on Friday, 90-83 to the Hornets in Oklahoma City.
Kevin Garnett had 17 points and 13 rebounds for his NBA-leading 39th double-double. Garnett averaged 38.0 points in the team’s last two wins over Los Angeles and Phoenix, but has managed just 35 total points in Minnesota’s last two losses.
Mark Blount led the team with 21 points Friday as the Timberwolves shot 38.8 percent from the field, their second-lowest effort of the season.
“We couldn’t execute down the stretch,” Garnett said. “I think we took a step back tonight, so tomorrow we’ve got to look at some film and try to take a step forward.”