If Dirk Nowitzki was on a mission on a historic Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, consider it accomplished.
In an extremely efficient game for the 16-year veteran, Nowitzki poured in 31 points on just 12-of-14 shooting in leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 108-101 victory over the Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena.
The win enabled the Mavs to improve to 39-27 and remain in eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
Other than his shooting spree, Nowitzki passed John Havlicek and became the No. 12 all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Nowitzki needed just one point to pass Havlicek, and he got that out of the way very early when he tallied 10 points in the first period.
“Dirk was great from start to finish,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Twelve for 14 is ridiculous, and four for four from 3. It’s hard to do much better than that. He really led our team tonight.”
The Mavs also received an all-around game from Monta Ellis, who finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. In addition, Ellis took over down the wire after Utah crawled within 93-92 with 4:50 left on a 3-point play by Derrick Favors.
Devin Harris nailed a pair of free throws, and Ellis drained a 3-pointer before Jose Calderon buried a 3-pointer off a feed from Ellis. Ellis scored on a drive, and a 3-pointer by Nowitzki padded the Dallas lead to 106-96 with less than 2 minutes remaining.
“After a frustrating first half, [Ellis] stayed patient, disciplined, aggressive. He took what the defense gave him; he got the jumper going, and then he made a bunch of plays,” Carlisle said. “… He just made a lot of subtle passes and a lot of ones that were real obvious, too. And I thought [Samuel] Dalembert, in the last four minutes, did a great job of patrolling the lane, protecting the rim, and he really helped close things down so that they couldn’t get any real traction in the last three or four minutes offensively.”
Other than Nowitzki and Ellis, the Mavs got 43 points from their bench, led by 12 from Harris and 11 from Wayne Ellington. Harris hit a 3-pointer right before halftime to give the Mavs a 55-53 lead, and Ellington nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the second half to held stave off a Jazz rally.
“The bench was great,” Carlisle said. “I thought Ellington really played great in the game — super efficient, solid defense and timely shots. Harris did what he’s been doing. He did a little bit of everything — playmaking, scoring.”
The victory was a big boost for the Mavs, who lost a crucial game Tuesday night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors. But against the Jazz, the Mavs shot 53.2 percent form the field, handed out 26 assists and turned the all over just 13 times in a victory they needed before they play at Oklahoma City on Sunday.
“Everybody contributed,” Shawn Marion said. “I think it was a breakdown of everybody trying to help and do the little small things.”
It was a great win on a night when Nowitzki made another giant step up the NBA scoring ladder in passing Havlicek.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Marion said of Nowitzki’s feat. “But I think he wanted to win more than anything tonight, and we got the win.”
The Mavs will get three days off before heading across the Red River to do battle with the Thunder as the season is down to just 16 games.
“Our guys played with some real emotions,” Carlisle said. “They knew the importance of the game.”