Dirk's Big Night Keeps Dallas Alive
Dirk Nowitzki ended those questions for a few days on Monday night with a wonderful performance in a Game 4 victory over the Nuggets.
The Mavericks' 119-117 win over the Nuggets keeps their season alive until at least Wednesday. But it was Nowitzki who made it that way.
He scored 44 points in 43 physical minutes where he was pounded by the Nuggets Kenyon Martin and a host of other defenders. It was the fifth time Nowitzki scored at least 40 points in the playoffs and his efforts were the third-best performance in franchise history.
Nowitzki saved the Mavericks season, in getting them their first win over the Nuggets, regular season and playoffs, in the fourth quarter. He scored 19 fourth-quarter points and was 11-for-11 from the foul line.
In a heartbreaking Game 3 loss to the Nuggets, which put the Mavericks on the verge of elimination, Nowitzki was bad.
He scored only three points and went 1-for-7 from the field in the fourth quarter.
This time Nowitzki played strong and did what superstars do -- make big shots.
"He was great," Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups said. "We played him tough, we played him with Kenyon and a couple of different guys but they got in foul trouble. He just hit a lot of tough shots and he does that. He's a great player he hit a lot of tough ones tonight."
Nowitzki realized he didn't play well on Saturday in a game the Mavericks should have won. He said he wasn't distracted by the fact his girlfriend was kicked out of his house just a few days earlier for not revealing certain things about her past.
"I thought in Game 3, I took some weak shots, and (in Game 4) just make aggressive moves and whatever happens happens, let it all hang out there," he said.
The Mavericks will also need him on Wednesday night when this series continues in Denver. Nowitzki is the only real scoring threat the Mavs have right now. Jason Terry, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, is struggling in this series. He averaged 19.6 points in the regular season but he's only averaging about 15 now. On Monday night, Terry scored 12 points in 31 minutes off the bench.
Jason Kidd, the veteran point guard, had 10 rebounds and six assists to go with 13 points, but he's being out played by Billups.
Josh Howard is playing with two bad ankles but did score 21 on Monday night, the most points he's scored since April 25, when he knocked in 28 against the Spurs in a victory.
So, it's up to Nowitzki, and he understands what's needed right now.
The Nuggets will ride with Anthony and Billups, but the Mavericks just have Nowitzki.
"It looked like he had a mission," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Pretty serious about every possession and every touch he got. We didn't seem to get a defensive feel on him or for the team team the whole game."