When is enough enough for Dirk in a loss?

DENVER – After a timeout with 1:57 remaining, Dirk Nowitzki walked back out onto the Pepsi Center court to line up for a pair of Randy Foye free throws with the Mavericks trailing the Denver Nuggets by 13 points.

Why was the Mavs’ 35-year-old superstar still on the floor so late with the game out of hand?

“I thought we still had a chance,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had them coughing the ball up a couple of times, and then they had a couple of scores and I got him out. Listen, Dirk was into the game. He really was into it. He didn’t want to come out. He wanted to give it every possible chance. I pulled the plug when I thought it was the right time to pull the plug.”

Carlisle waved the white flag 33 seconds later, when Nowitzki went to the bench during a mass substitution. By that time, Nowitzki had played 34 minutes, a couple more than his norm.

With preventative maintenance and managing Nowitzki’s minutes such a priority, was it worth leaving him on the floor late in a game Dallas trailed by double digits? The Nuggets led by 20 points midway through the quarter and didn’t let the Mavs cut the lead under 13 until Nowitzki exited and garbage time officially began.

“I wanted to fight,” Nowitzki said. “I wanted to go down swinging. I wanted to be out there. I felt good tonight. I was a little tired there in the third quarter when I subbed myself out, but that’s what we’ve got to do. Everybody’s who out there has got to play hard and play their minutes hard.”

The Mavs just have to hope the late minutes in a lopsided game don’t make it harder on Nowitzki in the games to come.