Nowitzki, Mavericks Top Grizzlies
Dallas 90, Memphis 83
MEMPHIS, Tenn., Dec. 9 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki's offense and emotion helped the Dallas Mavericks even the score with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Nowitzki scored a season-high 35 points and dominated throughout as the Mavericks controlled the Grizzlies, 90-83, in a match up of two of the NBA's best teams that is becoming a rivalry.
Nowitzki admitted he was playing with a little extra fire after reading statements made by Grizzlies guard Bobby Jackson in the Memphis newspapers.
Jackson said Nowitzki was "one of the softest players in the industry," a reaction to comments by Nowitzki about Grizzlies star forward Pau Gasol, who had 36 points and 15 boards in their game in Dallas.
"Obviously I read those quotes, so I was a little more focused," Nowitzki said. "But it was a big game, and we had something to get back after they beat us at home. So no matter what, I think I would have come out aggressive and with that kind of intensity."
"He was on fire," Mavericks guard Darrell Armstrong said. "Dirk takes the challenge. He's our leader, and he's the guy we look to when we need a basket."
In his fourth straight 30-point game, Nowitzki made 13-of-29 shots and 8-of-9 free throws. He also grabbed nine rebounds and became the franchise's all-time leading rebounder.
Dallas (14-5) led the entire second half as it repeatedly turned back surges by Memphis (13-6). The Grizzlies pulled within three points five times in the final six-plus minutes.
Nowitzki's turnaround jumper made it 79-74 with 4:19 left, and Marquis Daniels, who scored 18 points, answered two free throws by Shane Battier with a pull-up jumper and a pair of foul shots for an 83-76 bulge with 2:46 remaining.
During that stretch, Gasol, who was limited to 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting, committed a turnover and had his shot blocked by Erick Dampier.
Nowitzki fouled out with 37 seconds left, and Damon Stoudamire's free throw and jumper cut the deficit to 86-83 with 23 seconds to play. Memphis had a chance to tie after Dallas' DeSagana Diop missed two free throws, but Eddie Jones fired an airball on a 3-pointer.
"Tonight was about our defense," Nowitzki said. "We were able to control them and keep them out of the paint, and that was a big part of the game plan. We're not the high-paced team we were a couple years ago. It starts with defense now."
The Grizzlies shot 34 percent (24-of-70) and made just 30-of-45 free throws, with seven misses in the final period. They also were outrebounded, 50-38.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times," Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said. "We missed layups and dropped passes. ... I credit Dallas for their excellent defense."
The win moved the Mavericks into sole possession of second place in the NBA's Southwest Division. Both teams agreed the contest felt like a postseason game.
"They came in with a six-game streak, and we had the three-game streak," Armsrong said. "The game was for second place in the division. It's early, but that's big. So we wanted to bring it. This game wasn't just about Memphis. We wanted to send a message to the whole league."
"This is a great team, and this is going to be a great match up in the division," Grizzlies reserve guard Dahntay Jones said. "We just have to take care of our business at home and see how it all plays out in the end."
Keith Van Horn scored 13 points, Dampier pulled down 11 rebounds and the 6-1 Armstrong grabbed 10 for the Mavericks, who shot 44 percent (33-75) and improved to 9-3 on the road.
Mike Miller led five Grizzlies in double figures with 19 points off the bench.