Last spring, Dirk Nowitzki established himself as one of the top crunch-time performers in the NBA with various heroics throughout the Dallas Mavericks' championship run through the playoffs. For a man who once had a reputation as someone who shirked from the limelight, it was a huge step up. No one can call Dirk a loser anymore.
The flipside of that situation, of course, is that people now expect him to come through in winning time. Luckily, Nowitzki didn't disappoint on Wednesday night against the Celtics in Boston. With 10 seconds left and the score tied at 85, Dirk took the ball near the 3-point line, created space as Kevin Garnett tried to crowd him, and drove to the rim for a lay-up in traffic. Brandon Bass met him at the rim for a hard foul, but Nowitzki was able to lift the ball up in time and get it through the hoop. He hit the and-one free throw, the Celtics turned it over, and Jason Terry hit a lay-up to make it a 90-85 win. If Dirk hadn't scored, it might've been a different story.
The Mavericks have seemed to suffer from a bit of a championship hangover this season, but Wednesday's win in a tough environment could start them on a nice streak. Even if it doesn't, Nowitzki helped cement his legend as a late-game assassin even more. It's a label that's likely to stick for quite some time.
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