DALLAS (AP)—Just another game, Dirk Nowitzki insisted.
Regardless of the source—or sources—of inspiration, Nowitzki gave a brilliant performance Saturday night, making 16 of 20 shots and scoring 39 points to carry the Mavericks to a 115-108 victory over the Jazz.
“It didn’t matter if there was a hand in his face or two bodies on him,” said Utah’s Deron Williams. “He hit shot after shot and willed his team to victory.”
Nowitzki started strong and seemed to get better as the night went along. He scored nine points in the first quarter, 10 in the second, eight in the third and 12 in the fourth, despite getting his shooting elbow dinged and rolling his right ankle, both in the closing minutes. He was 7-of-8 in the second half. He also was emotional all night, punctuating his toughest shots with screams or fist pumps.
“Just one of those games where things went in that don’t usually go in,” Nowitzki said.
Jason Kidd said Nowitzki got rolling because he had open looks on his first few shots. Kidd also joked that “we just wanted to keep him on the floor or in the arena,” a teasing reference to Nowitzki getting tossed from the last game against the Jazz for throwing a punch, then getting suspended from the next game. He also was suspended following a game against Utah last season.
“It was good that he made it through,” Kidd said, smirking. “We’re taking baby steps, in that sense.”
Nowitzki also went over 18,000 career points. He’s 55th on the career scoring list, seventh among active players.
But the only stat Nowitzki cared about was ending the losing skid, especially with Dallas heading out on a four-game road trip through the frigid East.
“Whoever was coming in today, we had to get this win,” he said.
He wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was sweeter to get it against the Jazz.
“I really don’t see the history with Utah,” Nowitzki said. “It’s always that we have trouble in Salt Lake City, where they just let them get away with some stuff. But here in Dallas we don’t have a problem.”
Said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan: “He looks like he’s motivated every time he plays against us.”
“The big German came to play tonight,” Terry said. “It wasn’t his jump shooting, it was him getting to the basket and being aggressive. Every time he had an opportunity, he made them pay.”
Williams had 30 points and nine assists before fouling out in the last minute, and Mehmet Okur had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Utah.
The Jazz lost for only the second time in their last seven games, but this was their sixth loss in their last seven road games. This also was Utah’s 41st game; the Jazz are 24-17 at the midpoint of the season.
When the teams met last month, Utah was without three key players but still blistered Dallas. This time, the game was close for three quarters—16 lead changes, 12 ties—but the Mavericks went into the fourth ahead by 2 and never gave up the lead.
The Jazz got to 101-99, but Dallas pulled away again soon after.
Dallas acquired 3-point shooter Matt Carroll and big man Ryan Hollins from Charlotte on Friday in a trade for backup center DeSagana Diop. Hollins was on the bench in street clothes, but couldn’t play because Carroll and Diop haven’t taken their physicals. The newcomers are expected to play in Dallas’ next game, Monday in Philadelphia.
In the first half, Dallas led 17-12 then went nearly 6 minutes without scoring to fall behind 29-17. The slump conveniently ended seconds after an in-house promotion that gave some fans a $10 gift card at a video arcade if the Mavs scored in the next 60 seconds. They ended up regaining the lead minutes later and were up 55-51 at halftime.
Nowitzki missed his first free throw, ending a streak of 49 straight makes. … Dallas scored 38 points in the second quarter, its most in any quarter all season; 16 came in the paint and Kidd had five assists. The Mavs shot 16-of-22 (72.7 percent) in the period. … Utah lost despite making 51.3 percent of its shots. … Williams started 1-of-7, then went 7-of-8 before missing his last two.