Nowitzki's 41 points lead Mavs over Spurs in OT
DALLAS -- After taking the longest break of his basketball career this summer, Dirk Nowitzki is delivering one bad break after another to the opposition.
Nowitzki scored 32 of his season-high 41 points after intermission and carried Dallas to a second consecutive overtime victory, defeating Tim Duncan and Southwest Division rival San Antonio 99-94 on Wednesday night. Nowitzki scored 11 points in the extra session, shot 12-for-20 in the second half and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds as the Mavericks won their fourth straight.
"My competitive spirit is coming out early this year," said Nowitzki, who broke from his usual routine this past offseason by skipping German national-team duties.
The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week is a leading contender to win the award again following his double-double against the Spurs, his second clutch performance in three days. In Monday's overtime victory at Milwaukee, Nowitzki nailed the game-winning jumper as time expired. In a Nov. 3 victory against Utah, he set a team record with 29 points in the fourth quarter. After 12 games, he is averaging 27.5 points and 9.3 rebounds.
"Like I've said a thousand times, I just hope he's having an off night," Duncan said of Nowitzki. "I can play perfect defense, contest his shots, jump as high as I possibly can, and I'm still not blocking it. I just hope to make it harder for him and just hope he misses."
For most of the game, the big story was the number of regular starters not on the floor. Dallas was without Shawn Marion and Josh Howard due to injuries and Erick Dampier due to illness, and San Antonio played without an injured Tony Parker. The Spurs lost Manu Ginobili in the first quarter to a strained left groin.
In crunch time, however, it came down to a battle of former MVPs with Nowitzki and Duncan, who led the Spurs with 22 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots.
Late in regulation, Jason Terry missed a 22-footer off a screen by Nowitzki, but Nowitzki raced to the hoop untouched and tipped in the follow to put Dallas ahead 84-82 with 14.6 seconds left. Duncan answered with a turnaround, bank shot over Kris Humphries to tie it with 2.3 seconds to play. Terry got an open look at the buzzer, but Duncan came flying into the picture to swat it away and bring on the OT.
After Antonio McDyess gave the Spurs an early 89-86 lead with a midrange jumper, Nowitzki put the Mavericks on his back as he has done so many times before. He made two conventional three-point plays, then knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Mavericks on top 97-91 with 1:15 remaining. He finished it off with two late free throws, improving to 31-for-31 from the line this season in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Drew Gooden posted his third straight double-double since replacing Dampier in the starting lineup, tallying 17 points and 11 rebounds against his former team (23 games in 2008-09). Terry added 13 points and Jason Kidd had 11 boards, eight assists and four steals. The Mavs shot 40 percent and were just 3-for-17 from 3-point range, but they improved to 6-2 this season when shooting less than 44 percent -- after going 6-24 in such games last season.
"When Dirk and the other guys are shooting the ball, well there's no doubt in my mind that it's very hard to beat us," Humphries said. "It starts with playing tough D, hustling and we're going to shoot the ball well more nights than not. We just have to stay aggressive."
The Spurs fell to 0-4 on the road. George Hill started at point guard for Parker and finished with 15 points and four assists, while Richard Jefferson (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Matt Bonner (11 points, 10 rebounds) registered double-doubles in the losing effort. San Antonio turned the ball over 18 times and was dominated in points in the paint (46-22), second-chance points (16-4) and fastbreak points (18-7).
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said not having Ginobili available in a tight game was a tough obstacle to overcome.
"Manu does a lot of things for us, especially down the stretch," he said. "We missed having him in that situation. He obviously will be out for some amount of time, but I don't really know how serious it is. He told me that he will be out for [Thursday's] game [vs. Utah], but after that I just don't really know."
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