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After awful first half, Dirk finishes strong

DALLAS -- Good thing Dirk Nowitzki saved most of his buckets for the fourth quarter Tuesday night.

"I wasn’t trying to, but I’m glad some of them went in," Nowitzki said after the Mavericks’ come-from-behind 89-82 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. "The first half was pretty frustrating there."

The first half was one to forget. Nowitzki was 1-of-10 from the floor, dragging Dallas’ field goal percentage all the way down to 31.0 percent, the worst for the Mavs in any half this season.

But Nowitzki more than made up for it in the fourth quarter when he caught fire, scoring 14 of his game-high 25 points. This was a vintage Dirk clutch-shooting exhibition, in which he went 6-of-7 from the floor in the frame, all on jumpers.

"He stuck with it like Dirk should and came and made shots at the end," said shooting guard Monta Ellis, who also heated up in the fourth quarter, when he scored 10 of his 22 points.

The key was some halftime fine-tuning for the marvel of German engineering that is Nowitzki’s jumper.

It wasn’t exactly a complicated adjustment. After the first half, when Nowitzki felt like he had several good looks that didn’t go down, he figured out that he wasn’t bending his knees enough on the jumper.

Nowitzki came out a few minutes earlier than usual at halftime to get some shots up, then got in a groove midway through the fourth quarter, pinpointing a transition 3-pointer as the moment he felt like he found his rhythm.

"I guess routine and experience plays a big factor," said Nowitzki, a 16-year veteran who ranks 14th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. "Maybe 12 or 13 years ago, I couldn’t correct myself in a game like that. When you’ve done it so many times, you try some stuff. Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but this time it worked well. We got the big win. We needed that win."

The alternative would have been taking a three-game losing streak on the road, with five losses in the past six games. That gruesome scenario still seemed pretty likely until Nowitzki knocked down midrange jumpers on three consecutive possessions midway through the fourth quarter, when the Bobcats were burned by their risk of leaving Josh McRoberts alone to defend the big German.

The flurry started right away after Nowitzki checked back into the game following a brief rest. He posted up on the left wing, faced up against McRoberts and shot a midrange jumper over him.

On the next possession, Nowitzki caught the ball at pretty much the same spot and hit a turnaround fadeaway in McRoberts’ face.

On the following possession, Nowitzki posted up on the other side of the floor. Charlotte big man Al Jefferson bluffed a double-team but left McRoberts alone, allowing Nowitzki to face up, pump fake and hit another fadeway.

Just like that, one of the worst shooting halves of the future Hall of Famer’s career felt like a distant memory.

After Ellis took over for a stretch, the Dirk dagger came on a wide-open 21-footer with 27.9 seconds remaining.

"He can do anything," point guard Jose Calderon said of Nowitzki. "He doesn’t surprise me anymore. He can go 1-for-10, 1-for-12. It doesn’t matter. I'm getting the ball to him to shoot those shots for sure in the second half. No hesitation at all."

And no chance for McRoberts to stop him once Nowitzki made a minor adjustment, just in time to stop the Mavs’ losing streak.