A rare Mavs win on a Dirk off night

DALLAS -- It just wasn’t Dirk Nowitzki’s night.

But the Dallas Mavericks beat the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference anyway.

Considering that the Indiana Pacers are the NBA’s best defensive team, it’d be easy to give them credit for Nowitzki going 3-of-14 from the floor, matching his worst shooting performance of the season. The reality, though, is that the big German missed some shots that are usually gimmes for him.

“I had a couple of wide-open looks, especially there in the second quarter,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ 105-94 win Sunday night. “Just a couple of wide-open 15-, 16- footers that just didn’t go down today. I had a layup that just kind of rolled around, hit every part of the rim and rolled out. There’s nights like this, but the team picked me up. They were fantastic.”

Devin Harris and Monta Ellis, in particular, picked up Nowitzki. They had 20 points apiece, with Ellis knocking down a couple of clutch jumpers down the stretch to make sure there’d be no comeback by the Pacers.

How rare is it for the Mavs to win when Nowitzki shoots so horribly?

Well, it’s happened twice this season. The Mavs beat the Washington Wizards despite a 3-of-14 night from Dirk on New Year’s Day, when he declared himself the world’s most expensive decoy after spraining his ankle during the first minute and hobbling through the rest of the game. (They got blown out by the San Antonio Spurs in Nowitzki’s other 3-of-14 stinker this season.)

Not surprisingly, those victories are exceptions. The Mavs are 16-33 when Nowitzki has shot 25 percent or worse and attempted at least 10 field goals in his career.