Dirk, Defense Help Dallas Dominate
Dallas 95, Portland 81
DALLAS, Jan. 3 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki wasted no time going to work on another Player of the Month award.
Nowitzki scored 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting and the Dallas Mavericks used their underrated defense to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers for the seventh sraight time, 95-81.
Earlier Tuesday, Nowitzki was named the Western Conference's Player of the Month for December, averaging 27.2 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 91 percent from the line.
"That's obviously a great honor," Nowitzki said. "You don't go into the month thinking about something like that, but as a team we had a good month. We fought through some injuries and found some ways to stay in games and win. At one point we had three starters out and we still found a way to battle on the road and still win some of those games. To be recognized as one of the best players in this conference, that's special. that means you really helped your team every night to win ballgames. It's nice and we move on."
"He's played great and he's been steady for us all season and this past month, he's just been on a tear," Mavericks guard Jerry Stackhouse said.
The 7-footer came out firing and made his first six shots, helping Dallas open a 47-44 halftime lead. He cooled off a bit in the second half but delivered a pair of daggers in the fourth quarter.
The Trail Blazers closed to 72-69 with 9:44 left on a dunk by Ruben Patterson, who scored 19 points. The Mavericks responded with a 9-1 burst capped by 3-pointers from Terry and Nowitzki, whose shot beat the 24-second clock and provided an 81-70 lead.
"I thought those were the shots that we dropped our heads," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "That's the first thing I said in the locker room, that those were two big threes."
With 4:24 to go, Nowitzki again beat the shot clock with a fadeaway jumper that made it 88-74. Dallas led by double digits thereafter.
"They executed their offense real well," Patterson said. "We were in the game into the fourth quarter, but they hit some big shots at the end of the game."
Nowitzki also made his only free throw, pushing his streak to 50 without a miss and breaking Steve Nash's 2002 team record.
"Actually, that was on my mind," Nowitzki said. "After the New Orleans game they told me that I tied the record. When I went up to the line, I thought about that and tried to take some extra time, really concentrate hard and I got it. We never really play for individual records, but with this franchise there were a lot of great shooters and it's an honor to have that record and hopefully I can keep going."
The Mavericks continue to win with defense as well. With the help of a season-high 12 blocked shots - three from Erick Dampier and two from fellow center DeSagana Diop - they allowed 90 points or less for the 12th time this season.
"Damp had some big ones at the end of the game," Diop said. "I try to block every shot and when Damp does that, it helps us a lot. I think with one of us big men in there, the guards know that even if they get beat we're there and that helps a lot."
"Damp had a couple of big blocks and really anchored our defense down the stretch," Nowitzki said. "We had to get a couple of stops down the stretch and that's what we did. We're at our best when everybody is moving because they keep swinging the ball around but nothing's there."
Zach Randolph had 19 points and 11 rebound and Juan Dixon added 13 and nine for the Blazers, who were 0-of-7 from the arc as they dropped their third straight game. They were held under 85 points for the 12th time this season.
"We're just trying to hold teams under a certain percentage," Howard said. "It's a challenge for us and we take it out there every game. We study film, we have goals we set before every game and we try to reach those goals. We do reach those goals. As a team, we go out there and play hard every night on the defensive end."
Howard got the Mavericks off to a good start in the second half with 10 points in the third quarter.
"It was just me being a little more aggressive," Howard said. "I was in a little foul trouble in the first half and really didn't get to play like I really wanted to so I came out there in the second half just trying to do what I wanted to do in the first half."