All it took for Dwight Powell to play his best NBA game was to be patient and not get ahead of himself.
Powell used that strategy to tally a career-high 17 points and pull down eight rebounds Saturday night as the Dallas Mavericks crushed the Chicago Bulls 107-82. It was just the fourth win of the season for the Mavs, who entertain the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night at American Airlines Center.
The Mavs have been searching for this production out of Powell ever since they signed him to a four-year, $37 million contract July 8. And they believe they’ve figured out a way to squeeze the best out of Powell — a third-year pro described as a gym rat by the coaching staff.
“He is just getting better and getting more experience,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He is recognizing situations a little bit better.
“[The win over the Bulls] ended up being a lopsided score, but I thought the biggest play of the game was when we set up a play to get him a shot underneath the basket out of bounds with about six minutes to go and a low-clock situation. That was a big shot and he is a guy that is so enthusiastic and wants to do well, and he just needs to take a deep breath.”
Powell finished 7-of-11 shooting against the Bulls in 28 minutes. The field goals attempted and made were both season highs for Powell, who was more impressed with the way the Mavs bottled up the Bulls on the defensive end.
“Obviously hitting shots is great, but getting stops and taking advantage of opportunities, especially on the break, is important for us,” Powell said. “I think defensively we did a good job, and we’ve got to just learn from the things we did [Saturday] and continue to grow.”
Out indefinitely with a strained right Achilles, Dirk Nowitzki isn’t worrying about whether the injury will force him into an early retirement.
Nowitzki signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Mavs this summer and has always said he wants to honor that deal. But with the injury forcing him to miss 14 of 19 games this season, has his outlook on the future changed?
“I want to get back on the court as soon as I can — that’s really all I’m worried about for now for this year,” Nowitzki said. “I think we can re-evaluate this summer. I’ll talk to obviously the trainer, [owner Mark] Cuban and my family, and kind of just make a decision there.
“But for now, I’m all-in and I want to play.”
Nowitzki, though, has no idea when he’ll be able to play again. He just wants his return to be a permanent one, not one where he’s back out of the lineup following a few games.
“This obviously is not a career-ending injury,” Nowitzki said. “It’s just something that keeps lingering, unfortunately.
“Hopefully, sometime soon I’ll be out there and then stay out there. I don’t want to jump in and out of the lineup. I want to be healthy and stay out there.”
With Nowitzki sidelined indefinitely, Carlisle said guard Wesley Matthews has become the new leader in Dallas.
“He is our leader right now with Dirk out; he really is in the locker room and on the floor,” Carlisle said. “He’s the vocal guy in the locker room.
“Harrison [Barnes] is one of those guys, too, but Harrison is a little bit quieter and he’s in his first year. He’s feeling his way through all of that kind of stuff.”
Carlisle likes the aggressive tempo Matthews sets for his team.
“Wes, he’s a tone-setter,” Carlisle said. “Our competitive soul is very linked to him right now, and I think that’s pretty obvious.”