MINNEAPOLIS—Before his team took the floor against the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota coach Sam Mitchell was asked about Dirk Nowitzki’s ability to still carry his team after 17 NBA seasons.
Mitchell praised Nowitzki’s experience and ability to “get it done,” then the 37-year-old forward proved it against the inexperienced Timberwolves.
Nowitzki scored 29 points, converted a big three-point play, and grabbed a key loose ball in the final seconds to lead the Mavericks to a 93-87 win over the skidding ’Wolves yesterday.
“Classic Dirk,” teammate Deron Williams said. “Hitting shots from everywhere, making big shots, big plays.
“That’s why he’s one of the greatest.”
The rest of the Mavericks didn’t make it easy for coach Rick Carlisle to give Nowitzki more rest against a team with one of the NBA’s worst records.
The normally dynamic starting backcourt of Wesley Matthews and Williams shot a combined 3-for-18 after coming into the game averaging 14.5 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.
“One of the things we want to do is take some of the burden off of him [Nowitzki],” Carlisle noted.
“But there’s nights like tonight where it’s unavoidable.”
After attempting 44 three-pointers on Friday at Milwaukee, the Mavericks—one of the NBA leaders in three-point attempts—tried 20 against the Timberwolves.
Nowitzki had four of Dallas’ six threes.
“In the end, they were playing some small ball and we had some matchups up there,” noted Nowitzki, who has scored 20 points in four of his last five games.
“The guys kept coming to me, and I thought defensively it was a good effort today.”
The Timberwolves, who now have dropped six-straight and 10-of-11, didn’t get much production from the perimeter; they hit only four of 16 attempts from behind the arc.
Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota with 21 points while Shabazz Muhammad added 16 off the bench.
Wiggins helped the T’wolves close within five a couple of times late, but Nowitzki was fouled on a mid-range jumper with 1:30 left and hit the ensuing free throw.
Ricky Rubio then missed a three-pointer with 16 seconds left and Nowitzki grabbed the loose ball.
“A lot of people take these old guys for granted,” said 16-year veteran Andre Miller.
“As long as they can run up and down the court, it don’t matter how fast you’re moving, or how young or old you are,” he stressed.
“If you can put the ball in the basket and make your teammates better, there’s a place for you in this league.”