SAN ANTONIO – Dirk Nowitzki finally broke out and had a strong scoring performance in the Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, finishing the night with 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting after failing to crack 20 in the first four games of the series.
Nowitzki was clearly rolling in the fourth quarter as he made his first six shots. He ended up taking a heat-check shot from 24 feet away with 4:25 left in the game. He responded by hitting his next shot, triggering an 8-2 run that put the Mavs back within striking distance.
After some efficient ball movement, Nowitzki got the ball in the left corner. A charging Tiago Splitter ran him off the three-point line and Nowitzki gathered himself and shot an uncontested 17-foot pull-up jumper. It ultimately missed its mark.
"I would obviously like to have that one back there, on the one when I faked Splitter, to make it a two-point game," Nowitzki said. "That was a big shot. I had to make that one."
The miss proved to be a critical one as the Spurs were able to get out in transition, leading to a made 3-point basket by Tony Parker. The basket created a five-point swing and gave the Spurs a 101-94 lead with just 1:52 left in the game.
Even with the hot shooting and the defensive woes, the turning point was that missed jumper. It's one that probably cost Nowitzki a few hours of sleep Wednesday night.
"The one pull-up that would have made it a two-point game, I think that was actually probably my easiest shot I had all night," Nowitzki continued. "I got Splitter off his feet. He didn't want to give up that corner 3 and it was there. It was open. I wish I had that back."
Missed shots or not in the fourth, it has to be a comforting sign for Nowitzki and the Mavs to see the shots going in the basket. Prior to Game 5, Nowitzki was averaging just 16.2 points per game against the Spurs in the team's last 15 matchups, playoffs included. He's failed to score over 20 points in all but four of those games. The 26 points marked the highest scoring output for Nowitzki against the Spurs since he scored 27 on March 17, 2012 in a regular season game.
"He just stayed aggressive," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki. "We are just playing basketball, and we want the ball touching his hands in good situations. We have got to continue doing that."
With the monkey now off his back after a strong Game 5 performance, Nowitzki knows he can produce at a high level against the Spurs. That said, shooters tend to remember the misses more than the makes. The Mavs will hope that Nowitzki has some strong shooter's amnesia in Game 6. They'll need a strong effort from Nowitzki in Game 6 if they want to force a Game 7.