It was a shot so pure, so clutch and so, well, Dirk Nowitzki-esque that Kobe Bryant had no other reaction than to give the Mavericks legend a congratulatory pat.
With 2.1 seconds remaining in a tied game, Nowitzki pulled up over Julius Randle from 14 feet out and swished the game-winning baseline bucket, prompting the injured Bryant to offer up his sign of respect.
“There wasn’t much more (Randle) could do,” head coach Byron Scott said after Tuesday’s 92-90 loss. “… I thought Julius did a great job of pushing him out and being aggressive and forcing him to shoot a tough shot.
“He’s a Hall of Famer. That’s what this guy has been doing for a number of years.”
Los Angeles and Dallas traded swings throughout the game. The Mavericks (26-21) took a seven-point lead into the second quarter, but Lou Williams scored 11 of his 14 points in that next frame to give L.A. the two-point edge at halftime.
Neither team could pull away at any juncture in the second half, but the Lakers (9-38) appeared to finally capture the high ground in a defensive-focused fourth quarter.
The game knotted at 90 with 13.5 seconds left, Williams scored the go-ahead bucket but had it subsequently waived off, as he was called for an offensive foul while trying to free himself from defender J.J. Barea.
From there, it was simply up to Nowitzki to add to his collection of last-second shots. The 13-time all-star went just 1-of-7 through the first three quarters, but hit 4-of-7 in the final one, including the game-winner.
“(You’re) looking at one of the all-time greats — one of the all-time great clutch players — doing what he does,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Just amazing that he keeps doing it the way he does it.”
Randle's ensuing 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
Kids More Than Alright
With Bryant sitting out due to a sore right shoulder, the core of young Lakers managed to push the Western Conference’s current sixth seed to the brink of defeat.
Jordan Clarkson led the way with 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Randle picked up his 16th double-double of the year with 16 points and 11 boards.
Randle particularly impressed with his outside shot — which has been inconsistent thus far in the year — by knocking down his first four attempts from mid-range.
He credited the improvement to a combination of confidence, rhythm and repitition.
“I put a lot of hours into it,” Randle said. “Day and night — it’s a lot of hours. It’s coming around slowly.”
End of an Era
Unfortunately for fans of both teams and basketball in general, the final chapter of Bryant and Nowitzki’s rivalry went unwritten due to the former’s injury.
Nonetheless, after facing each other 53 times in 18 years, a clear mutual respect has been forged between the two.
“Like I said this entire time, he’s our Michael Jordan for my generation,” Nowitzki said. “He is one of the best to lace them up, and it’s been a pleasure and an honor to compete against him basically almost my entire career.”
Likewise, Carlisle also admitted that he was “disappointed” after learning Bryant would sit out his final game against the Mavericks.
He recalled facing the Lakers star as an Indiana assistant coach in the 2000 NBA Finals, highlighting Bryant’s 28-point Game 4, which Carlisle labeled “the pivotal game of the series,” which L.A. won for its first title in 12 years.
Like Nowitzki, the head coach compared Bryant to Jordan, but perhaps the highest praise actually came from Carlisle’s daughter, who was five years old when her father took over the Mavericks in 2008.
Said Carlisle: “She said to me, ‘Daddy, who do you guys play tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘We play the Lakers.’ She said, ‘That’s Kobe Bryant, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She goes, ‘That’s trouble.’”
In honor of former owner Jerry Buss, the Lakers celebrated the game as Dr. Buss Night. … Barea and Chandler Parsons led the Mavericks with 18 and 17 points, respectively. … L.A. outrebounded Dallas 47-35. … Larry Nance Jr. returned from a knee injury that had cost him three games, but went scoreless in 23 minutes. … A sold-out crowd of 18,997 packed Staples Center.