Dirk's workload will increase in playoffs

How many minutes can Dirk Nowitzki play and still be expected to come through in crunch time? Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS -- Over the last few weeks, Dirk Nowitzki has had five of his six highest-minutes games of the season.

That will be a trend that continues into the playoffs.

“It’s probable that his minutes will be extended from 32 and change regular season up into the mid-to-upper 30s at times in the playoffs,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You’re not playing back-to-backs, and you got national TV games with long timeouts, so there are things that can mitigate that. The other night we weren’t playing a national TV game, so the timeouts were relatively short. But he’s learned how to preserve himself and the fact that we were able to keep his minutes very reasonable during the year I thought set him up well for the other night with one big let it all go.”

Nowitzki played 39 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Phoenix Suns, which was essentially an early playoff game. That’s the most minutes he’s logged in a game that didn’t go to overtime this season.

Nowitzki played between 38 and 40 minutes in the Mavs’ four overtime games on the previous homestand.

The key question in deciding Dirk’s workload: How many more minutes can he play in a game and still be reasonably expected to come through during crunch time?

“Not much more than the other night,” said Nowitzki, who practiced Monday without any problems after turning his left ankle late in the win over the Suns. “I was huffing and puffing there pretty good one time in the fourth. Glad there was a timeout coming.

“Either team we're going to face up [in the playoffs], they're fast, they all run. They all run the fast break, [so] you've got to get back. It's taxing games. I felt still good enough obviously to finish the other night. But I don't think we're going to push it more than 39.”