Dirk Nowitzki reached another milestone Monday night and the Dallas Mavericks used a second-half blitz to bury the Houston Rockets, 111-104, at the Toyota Center.
Nowitzki scored a game-high 31 points and moved past Alex English and into 13th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Most importantly, Nowitzki scored 18 of his points in the second half when the Mavs rallied and snapped a two-game losing skid in what guard Monta Ellis called a must-win situation.
“Another great milestone,” Nowitzki said, in reference to moving by English. “He was an unbelievable scorer in this league in the 80’s in Denver.
“I wouldn’t have thought that 15, 16 years ago when I came here that I was going to be passing him one day. It’s a fun little accomplishment, but I think the win is more important to me tonight.”
It was a win the Mavs (16-12) sorely needed after they blew a 19-point lead and lost at home in overtime to Toronto last Friday, and followed that up 24 hours later by suffering a 15-point loss in Phoenix.
“I thought the third quarter was key,” said Nowitzki, who made 11 of 18 shots. “We came out at halftime really on the same page, got some stops, made it a little harder on Dwight [Howard], tried to keep [Jeremy] Lin out of the paint, tried to stay home on their three-point shooters a little better.”
“That defense in the third quarter was a wonderful thing.”
The Mavs trailed 57-50 at the half, but surged after intermission when they opened the third quarter on a 15-1 run. Nowitzki scored seven of those 15 points as Dallas moved ahead 65-58 less than four minutes into the second half.
By the time Jae Crowder and Vince Carter each made 3-pointers, the Mavs were on the end of a 29-11 run and leading 79-68 late in the third period.
“We had a disappointing first half and at halftime we just talked about hanging in,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We were very fortunate to be down seven and we felt like with defense in front of us in the second half we can help the guys a little bit if we just hung in we could give ourselves a shot.
“And then we started getting some shots and the ball was going in the basket and we got some momentum. A lot of guys stepped up.”
One of the players who stepped up was Samuel Dalembert, who finished with eight points, seven rebounds and three steals in 29 minutes.
Brandan Wright also got his turn trying to defend Howard, who finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Ellis scored 18 points and acknowledged that the Mavs held the Rockets to just 7-of-19 shooting from 3-point range.
“That was one of our main things is keeping them from making a lot of 3s,” Ellis said. “Dwight had the ball a lot down there, so we mixed it up so he really didn’t know what we were going to do for the kickouts [to the 3-point line].
“I think we just played, overall, great team defense.”
With the help of Nowitzki, the Mavs built their lead to 99-84. But the Rockets (18-11) eventually crawled to within 103-97 with more than three minutes left.
However, Nowitzki made back-to-back jumpers and the Rockets went quietly into the night.
“It was a must-win for us,” Ellis said. “We had to get back on track to feeling good again after two devastating losses.”