3-pointer: Dirk Nowitzki not ready for closer role

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Mavericks were protecting a seven-point lead when Dirk Nowitzki pulled off his warmups with 6:19 remaining.

Classic closing time, right? Too bad Dirk isn’t ready for that role.

Nowitzki, who was playing in his second game of the season after a longer-than-anticipated rehab from preseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, didn’t score the rest of the game as the Thunder rallied for the win. He attempted only one shot, a contested layup, for the rest of regulation and during the 1:27 Nowitzki played during overtime.

“I didn’t really want the ball that much, even when they switched (defenders),” Nowitzki said. “I don’t really feel like I’ve got the stamina, the lift to do something with the ball, make a one-on-one move. I think I’m a week or two away from really dominating the ball down the stretch and making stuff happen.”

As he said after shootaround, Nowitzki’s surgically repaired knee feels great. He just doesn’t have much bounce in his step or stamina at this point.

That was evident from Nowtizki’s line in the loss to the Thunder: nine points on 3-of-11 shooting and six rebounds in 26 minutes.

It was also evident from the fact that Nowitzki never put his stamp on a winnable game when it was time to win it.

“It’s a process,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re two games into a I-don’t-know-how-many-game process of him really regaining his legs and his form. We hope it’s sooner than later, but we’ve got to make sure we go at the right pace.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ fourth consecutive loss:

1. Painful progress: Moral victories are for losers, but this was a heck of a lot better than the Mavs’ previous three games.

The Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs all beat the Mavs by double digits. The Heat’s lead swelled to 36. The Spurs led by as many as 46.

So it’s certainly a step in the right direction to lead the Thunder by as many as 11 and take the defending West champs into overtime. But the Mavs still headed home with a season-long losing streak.

“We just keep bleeding and bleeding,” said forward Shawn Marion, who had 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. “We’ve got to stop the bleeding. ... We’ve got to take all the positives we can out of this loss, but we let this one slip through our fingers.”

Added Nowitzki: “We compete the way we did tonight, that gives us a chance to win some games. If we play hard, we’ve got a chance.”

2. DC’s disappointment: Darren Collison has scored more than 32 points once in an NBA game – when he dropped 35 on the Mavs as a Hornets rookie.

However, Collison wasn’t in any mood to celebrate his individual accomplishments after he made 13-of-22 shots from the floor and all four of his 3-point attempts in a losing effort.

“I don’t see anything good about it,” Collison said. “We lost the game. I’m about wins and losses, no matter how I played. It doesn’t mean nothing if you don’t win the game. It’s good that I was attacking, but at the same time, that’s how I’ve always been. I’ve always been about wins and losses. We didn’t win the game.”

3. Birthday bummer: Dahntay Jones didn’t score on his 32nd birthday. Jones, who started at small forward again, was 0-of-2 from the floor, grabbed one rebound, had one steal and committed three fouls in 15 minutes.

Oklahoma City small forward Kevin Durant dropped 40 points on the Mavs, but Jones only played two seconds in the fourth quarter when Durant did a lot of his damage, scoring 13 points to key the Thunder’s comeback.