Dirk warms up down the stretch
Mavericks' star gets support, keeps momentum strong in quest for No. 2 seed
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Dirk Nowitzki didn't have a chance to answer the question about whether he hoped to get some rest before the playoffs like other superstars around the league.
"He's got all summer to rest!" Jason Terry roared from a nearby locker.
Nowitzki responded with a smile and a nod. Does he look like a dude that needs a few days off? His legs looked awfully fresh while he poured in 40 and 39 points on consecutive nights.
In the grind-it-out win Friday night over the Portland Trail Blazers, Nowitzki was the Dallas Mavericks' only consistent offensive threat. He had plenty of help in Saturday's 126-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena, with five Mavs scoring in double figures and Jason Kidd recording the 105th triple-double of his career.
Nowitzki has never been a fan of putting his feet up the week before the playoffs. He'll always have a bad taste in his mouth from rest backfiring at the end of the Mavs' 67-win season in 2007. Normally a premier postseason performer, he had by far the worst playoff series of his career while the eight-seed Golden State Warriors dismissed Dallas in six games.
It's much better in Nowitzki's mind to have to scratch and claw for seeding down the stretch. He's a gym rat who wants to be in rhythm when the playoffs arrive.
The Mavs still have work to do before the postseason begins, although they've seized sole possession of the West's second seed with two games remaining. Dirk's goal is twofold: Keep winning and stay in this sweet groove.
"I'm ready for hopefully a long and fun playoff run," said Nowitzki, adding that he feels great in part because he didn't play for the German national team last summer for the first time in his NBA career.
A playoff run appears realistic again after the Mavs pulled out of a 5-6 funk by winning back-to-back road games in drastically different fashions. The primary similarity in the victories in Portland and Sacramento has been Dirk's dominance.
"We've all seen it before," said Kidd, who had 11 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds against the Kings. "When he gets going and the ball's just touching the net, there's really nothing you can do except maybe send him to the free throw line. And he's pretty good from there, too."
Yeah, Nowitzki's not bad from the line. He's knocked down 68 in a row, breaking his own franchise record.
That streak is less than seven games old, which is evidence that Nowitzki is attacking. He's 30-of-30 from the line in the two games on this road trip.
"I'm just being aggressive," said Nowitzki, who was 12-of-20 from the floor against the Kings. "If I'm open, shoot the ball. If not, I'm trying to put the ball on the floor a little more, get to the foul line."
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The Mavs led from the opening minutes, but the Kings managed to make the game interesting for a few moments in the third quarter, pulling within a dozen points after a 10-1 run.
That just got the Mavs' competitive juices going again. Kidd and Terry (25 points) took turns assisting on each other's 3-pointers before Dirk reasserted his dominance, erupting for 13 points in a span of just more than two minutes.
"It looked like the basket was like three times the size of a normal basket whenever he shot the ball," said Kings coach Paul Westphal, a former Mavs assistant. "He showed why he's one of the greatest players ever to play this game."
Nowitzki looks forward to the opportunity to prove it -- again -- on the playoff stage.