Mavs can't overcome one of Dirk's worst nights

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki must be glad that he doesn't have to see good friend Jason Kidd the rest of the season.

Kidd was much more fun to be around when he was helping Nowitzki get open shots instead of scheming to keep the big German from getting good looks.

Nowitzki couldn’t buy a bucket Sunday night at the American Airlines Center, finishing with only 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting during the Dallas Mavericks’ 107-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

It was one of the worst shooting nights of Nowitzki’s surefire Hall of Fame career. There have been only three games in his 16 seasons in which he made so few field goals and had more attempts.

"I’ve got to make some shots," Nowitzki said after Dallas dropped to 2-2 on this homestand, putting them in eighth place in the Western Conference. "I’ve just got to swallow this one and keep working."

Give Kidd, the Nets coach best known around these parts as the point guard of the Mavs’ title team, credit for taking advantage of his unique insight into his former teammate's game for coming up with a plan that flustered Nowitzki.

"We got lucky," said Kidd, whose Nets are an East-best 27-10 since the calendar turned to 2014. "Against talented players like Dirk, you just hope that they miss. Guys made it extremely tough. We showed him different looks, gave him different guys on him. He had some great looks that he usually makes. Again, we just got lucky tonight."

Kidd can attribute Dirk’s dreadful night to luck, but it’s not a coincidence that Nowitzki also struggled during the Mavs’ loss in Brooklyn earlier this season, going 5-of-15 from the floor. Kidd knows Nowitzki’s sweet spots as well as anyone, and he schemed ways for the Nets to get the ball out of Nowitzki’s hands or make him uncomfortable when he had it.

"It was tough," Nowitzki said. "I kind of hesitated too much. I was kind of always waiting for the double-team instead of just playing my game. They mixed it up. Sometimes, it didn’t come, and I was looking around [for] where it’s coming from. They had me off balance.

"J. Kidd did a good job with that game plan there. He did the same thing in Brooklyn, but the shots I do take, I’ve just got to make them."

The basketball gods didn’t give Nowitzki any generous rolls, but it was stunning to see the sweetest shooting 7-footer in NBA history be so far off.

An open 3-pointer from the left wing in the third quarter clanked off the glass, sailing several inches over the rim. In the final minute of regulation, Nowitzki air balled a one-legged fadeaway over 6-foot-7 guard Shaun Livingston from the left block -- a shot Nowitzki can usually make after falling out of bed in the middle of the night.

It could have been a Dirk dagger. Disaster followed as Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson blew by Dallas' best defensive player, Shawn Marion, for the tying layup with 9.9 seconds remaining.

Monta Ellis, who tried to pick up Nowitzki’s slack by scoring 32 points, missed an off-the-dribble, 26-foot prayer when the Mavs had a chance to win the game at the overtime buzzer. And the Mavs couldn’t stop Brooklyn in overtime, when the Nets scored 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

"He had an off night, and that happens," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki. "When it happens, the ball has got to move and other guys have to get involved, which we did. We did a lot of good things considering it wasn’t his best night. We were in great position, and then twice we couldn’t get stops in regulation."

Off nights happen, but not very often with Nowitzki. And almost never that ugly.