It just took Nowitzki a half to follow through on the plan.
What a show it was once Dirk did get going.
Nowitzki thawed out after a 2-of-11 first half to torch Philadelphia for 24 points in the second half, matching the Sixers’ total for the final 24 minutes. Dirk had a dozen points in the third quarter and a dozen more in the fourth to key the Mavs’ biggest comeback of the season and an 82-75 win.
“I really tried to find my rhythm early and get some baskets and get going, but for some reason that first half it just wasn’t happening,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 28 points after hitting 8 of 11 shots from the floor in the second half. “I felt like I had some good looks there, but just didn’t have a good rhythm and some of the stuff was short.
“In the second half, I really had the same mindset but just had a couple go in. We all know when a shooter sees a couple go in, the confidence goes up. … I just rolled from there.”
It was Nowitzki’s seventh 20-plus-point performance in the past eight games, but he was in the midst of a mini-slump at the half. He had hit only 19 of his last 58 shots from the floor over the previous three-and-a-half games before catching fire in the third quarter, when he was 5-of-6 from the floor, hitting a pair of transition 3-pointers and a few midrange jumpers, highlighted by a high-degree-of-difficulty one-legged leanaway off the dribble.
“At this point, this is not a shock,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki’s second-half shooting exhibition.
No, it’s not a shock. There have been precious few players in NBA history to score as prolifically for one team as Nowitzki has for the Mavs.
In fact, there are only nine players who have scored more points for a single team than Nowitzki, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: Utah’s Karl Malone (36,374); Chicago’s Michael Jordan (29,277); the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (28,699); Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon (26,511); Boston’s John Havlicek (26,395); Indiana’s Reggie Miller (25,279); the Lakers’ Jerry West (25,192); the Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24,176); and New York’s Patrick Ewing (23,665). Nowitzki (23,294) moved past Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins (23,292) on Friday night.
A few more notes from the Mavs’ victory:
1. D for dominant: The Mavs moved past the Lakers as the team with the lowest field goal percentage allowed after stifling the Sixers in the second half. Philadelphia shot a season-low 33.7 percent from the floor, including 9-of-42 in the second half.
“The story of the game was our defense,” Carlisle said. “We only allowed 24 points in the second half, which is a phenomenal job defensively. They missed some shots, but our guys were into it. Right now, that’s our identity as a team. We’re a defense-first team.”
2. Jason Kidd and the kid: The Mavs remain determined to limit their 38-year-old floor general’s minutes despite Delonte West's extended absence due to his mangled right ring finger. That makes production from Dominique Jones -- and Rodrigue Beaubois, once he returns from a personal leave -- a must.
Jones, the rarely used second-year guard from South Florida, provided 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 21 minutes against the Sixers.
“Dominique Jones filling in did a terrific job, all things considered,” Carlisle said.
Kidd played nine seconds less than his limit of 30 minutes and had arguably his best all-around performance of the season. He scored nine points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out eight assists, swiped two steals and even blocked a shot. His most important stat: a plus-minus of 28 points on the positive side, which included a 9-0 run that gave the Mavs the lead for good after Kidd re-entered the game in the fourth quarter.
“That is why he is one of the top players of all time,” Carlisle said.
3. Matrix’s magnificence: Shawn Marion had a miserable night offensively, misfiring on 10 of 13 shots, including a dunk and several other attempts close to the bucket. That didn’t stop him from putting on another defensive clinic against point guards.
Marion, the 6-foot-7 small forward who has been primarily a defending point guard since Kidd’s return from a strained right calf five games ago, made life miserable for Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday (three points, 0-9 FG, two assists).
At least Holiday is in good company. Denver’s Ty Lawson had three points on 1-of-8 shooting and two assists in a Wednesday loss to the Mavs. Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and the Clippers’ Chris Paul also had subpar performances while being harassed by Marion, a 13-year veteran who is making a strong case for his first All-Defense Team appearance.