By Will Martin
What a difference a year makes! 2013 was a year to forget for Dallas Mavericks fans with Dirk injured for 27 games and the fight to get to .500 led the team to grow beards until the .500 mark was reached at season’s end. The team then shaved and some family from Monroe, La. took the facial hair mantle.
The 2014 Mavericks have had a healthy Dirk for the majority of the season, slowly working his way towards the Top Ten in all time scoring career wise , his team is 16 games over .500 after a 3-1 week with victories over the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings on the road with a current #7 seed, half a game ahead of Phoenix in the Western Conference.
Should they hold the #7 spot then it’s going to be the cross-state I-35 series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That matchup would fare a lot better than facing San Antonio in the first round as an 8 seed. Last week was so unexpectedly good after a disastrous 4-4 homestand with three of the four losses by way of overtime. There were some ticked off people when the Warriors pulled off the overtime win last week…the lone loss of April to date.
Congratulations are in order for Dirk Nowitzki for being voted the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week. In getting this kudos for a 17th time in his career Dirk averaged 25.3 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 35.5 minutes per game and shooting 55.7 % (39 for 70) .
On the season, Nowitzki ranks 13th in the NBA in scoring (21.6 ppg). He is shooting 49.2 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three-point range and 90.1 percent from the line.
How long has it been between Player of the Week Honors, Dirk?
“I mean, it’s been a long time. I guess the greatest thing about that is it means we won some games. That’s really what this stretch here is all about,” Nowitzki stated Monday in Salt Lake City.
“We’re in the middle of four road games, which is never easy. And winning Player of the Week at this point in my career means that we’re winning games, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not really about personal stuff anymore, it’s about making the playoffs. We didn’t make the playoffs last year, and we had a big week. …We definitely needed to take care of what we can take care of, and that’s keep winning. So, that’s really all that Player of the Week means for me. We were able to pull out some tough games, especially on the road, and that’s great.”
Dallas completes a four game road trip in Utah Tuesday night with a magic number of three to enter the NBA playoffs for a 12th time in 13 years. What makes this whole scenario interesting is that the Spurs need one more win to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If that happens when the Spurs play the Minnesota Timberwolves April 8th then the game on April 10th against Dallas will have no meaning for Pops and you could see a bunch of players sit one out sans 250,000 dollar fine.
Dirk has never been one to follow statistics if it doesn’t involve the team so we’ll put the onus on that magic number.
“I guess our magic number is three and we’ve got to win three out of four, so it starts tomorrow. We’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Nowitzki said. “You don’t want to get too far ahead. Tomorrow is a big challenge in this building, and hopefully we can take care of it.”
It starts with the team Dallas gone 3-0 against in 2013-2014, the Utah Jazz before San Antonio comes to town on April 10th. As if you trying to script the perfect scenario the Mavs then follow up with the Suns on the 12th then finish on the road in Memphis. We won’t know a thing until April 13th as it currently stands.
Last week began ominously enough with a 122-120 overtime loss to Golden State. The game was of the gut punch variety as each time Dallas chose to do a double team on a given player another would get the touch and make them pay. Dirk Nowitzki had himself a 33 point effort with 11 rebounds in 39 minutes. Monta Ellis went 11 for 23 for 27 points in a 42 minute game.
An 11 point lead of 63-52 at the half was courtesy of Nowitzki feeling it with 16 points at the midpoint. Stephen Curry would connect on 17 of 23 points in the second half, including a dramatic three point shot with time expiring in overtime as the Warriors outlasted the Mavericks 122-120. What should have been a goal tend on Jermaine O’Neal was not called (the NBA would later admit it was a blown call) right before the dagger was tossed from Curry.
Jordan Crawford was the player off the bench for Golden State with 19 points and very few answers to defend. On a night Dallas and Golden State combined for 29 three pointers (29 for 61) the second half play of people like Klay Thompson (27 points) and Jermaine O Neal (20 points) were what kept Dallas off balance all night as they fell to 44-31.
As for the final moments of the game what were you thinking about the non-goaltend call?
“The last sequence, I actually don’t know what happened,” Nowitzki said post game “I think [Ellis’] shot had a chance to get to the rim. And if that’s the case, you can’t just get it out of the air. To me that’s a goaltend, and I asked the referee what happened. The explanation was that the ball was two feet short (of the rim), and if that’s the call then he can get it out of the air. But where I was from I think it had a chance to at least hit the rim, and that’s a goaltend to me. And then we were kind of shocked by the no-call and we were kind of running back, and you’ve got to give Steph credit. He made a heck of a shot. I thought Jose was all over him. It was actually good defense and Steph didn’t even have his feet set the right way. He’s just got great touch and he threw it up and it went in, so it’s a heartbreaker.”
Dallas tied a record for having a 1-4 record in overtime games this season. The most home overtime losses in a season since 1984-1985. The Mavericks then shot off to California to first play a back to back in Los Angeles with the Clippers and Lakers. Despite letting a 12 point lead get away the Mavericks would pull away with a clutch 113-107 win on the 26 points chipped in by Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk was one of five Mavericks in double figures. Monta Ellis chipped in 19 and Jose Calderon pumped in 16.
Subsequent wins over the Lakers 107-95 and Sacramento 93-91 place Dallas at 47-31. Utah Tuesday night April 8th. Three more wins and this team returns to the playoff world for the 12th time in 13 years. All of this made possible on the heels of a healthy Dirk Nowitzki. Your NBA Western Conference Player Of The Week. For a 17th time.
As Dirk goes so goes Dallas.
4/8 @Jazz 8:00 p.m.
4/10 vs Spurs 7:00 p.m.
4/12 vs Suns 7:30 p.m.