Tablet Sports

Nowitzki’s big night powers Mavericks

Whispers of Dirk Nowitzki’s demise have been grossly exaggerated.

Complete confirmation came Sunday night against the Detroit Pistons.

In one of his best shooting performances of the season, Nowitzki scored a game-high 28 points and helped the Dallas Mavericks to a 116-106 victory over the Pistons at American Airlines Center.

It was the most points Nowitzki has scored in a game since he scored a season-high 40 points during a victory over New Orleans on Jan. 11.

More important, after struggling recently and after sitting out a game last Wednesday in Toronto, Nowitzki hit 10 of 16 shots.

Nowitzki’s 62.5 percent shooting from the field was his fourth-highest of the season and his highest since he made 10 of 13 shots during a 112-106 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 30.

“Twenty eight points in 32 minutes,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You think he’s an All-Star?”

Carlisle probably wouldn’t get any arguments from Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks.

“We know Dirk — he’s been doing this for a long time,” Cheeks said. “The way he picks and pops, catches the ball, he either makes a play for someone else or for himself.

“He always seems to make those 3s. That’s what he’s been doing for a long time.”

Nowitzki was 3 of 5 from 3-point range Sunday, including his final dagger from downtown that put the Mavs ahead 116-102 with 54.8 seconds left.

Meanwhile, guard Devin Harris pieced together his second consecutive solid game and showed why the Mavs value him so much.

After getting 14 points and four assists Friday in Brooklyn, Harris contributed 14 points and seven assists against the Pistons.

Harris’ production was significant because Monta Ellis struggled and finished with 11 points and had eight turnovers.

“He’s obviously worked extremely hard, getting more rhythm, more feel, shots are going in now and he made plays,” Carlisle said of Harris.

“And on a night when Monta just couldn’t get it going it’s a godsend to have a guy like Devin available, who’s an experienced NBA player who’s really done everything.

“He’s been a starter, he’s been an off-the-bench guy, he’s been a guy who’s had to score, he’s been a guy who’s had to be a top defender on his team, and he’s smart.

“He knows what we need — we need hard-nosed play, we need penetration and we need defense.’’

A 3-pointer by Harris completed a game-changing 17-4 rally by the Mavs bridging the third and fourth quarters and gave them a comfortable 94-81 lead with 10:07 remaining.

The Mavs entered Sunday’s game after two straight road losses to Toronto and Brooklyn and wanted to get this four-game homestand off to a positive start.

Jose Calderon (17 points) did his part to contribute, as did Vince Carter, who turned 37 on Sunday and wound up with 13 points and five rebounds, including the Mavs’ first five points of the fourth quarter.

“Well, every game is going to be tough in the NBA,” said Calderon, who spent the last half of last season with the Pistons. “But at the end of the day we executed a little bit better tonight.

“We made a few mistakes, but I think we really played a 48-minute game tonight even with those [17 turnovers].”

The Mavs had seven turnovers less than nine minutes into the game — four by Ellis. But they still led 28-25 after the first quarter, 56-46 at the half and 84-81 after the third period.

Plus, with Nowitzki shooting nearly flawlessly from the field, the Mavs knew they could turn to their 11-time All-Star whenever they needed a basket.

“The one play we ran for him to start the game he happened to miss the shot, and then he made four or five in a row,” Carlisle said. “But guys know to look for him.”

Especially on a night like Sunday, when Nowitzki put together one of his best shooting performances of the season.