Dallas Mavericks

Nowitzki finishes his portion of this season with 21 points in 109-91 loss to Denver

pmoseley@star-telegram.com

DALLAS – A day of celebration in honor of Tony Romo didn’t end quite well for the Dallas Mavericks.

No, Romo didn’t play in Tuesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets. Neither did three of the Mavs’ starters -- Harrison Barnes (rest), Wesley Matthews (rest) and Seth Curry (left shoulder injury).

With those three starters in street clothes, the Mavs didn’t have enough firepower to fully battle the Nuggets, who eased their way to a 109-91 triumph before a sellout crowd of 20,333 at American Airlines Center.

It was the final home game of the season for the Mavs, who have lost nine of their last 10 games and are 32-49 overall. The Mavs will end their season Wednesday night, starting at 7, at the FedEx Forum in Memphis against the Grizzlies.

The Nuggets (39-42) shot 48.8 percent from the field, made 18-of-42 baskets from 3-point range while holding the Mavs to 39.8 percent shooting. Denver also outrebounded the Mavs, 53-42, and took control of the game when it outscored Dallas, 34-18, in the second quarter to assume a 57-44 lead at the half.

Romo, who announced last week that he is retiring from the NFL after spending the past 14 seasons quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys, suited up and went through all of the warm-up drills. Many fans showed up wearing his No. 9 Cowboys jersey and armed with football helmets.

The Mavs had already announced that Romo wouldn’t play in the game, and that Tuesday was would be spent honoring him for his achievements with the Cowboys. But that didn’t stop fans from chanting "Romo, Romo, Romo’ several times during the game.

On two occasions with less than three minutes remaining in the game, Romo hopped off the Mavs’ bench and acted like he was headed to the scorer’s table to check in the game. Both times coach Rick Carlisle smiled and hugged him, and Romo went back to the bench.

Nuggets coach Mike Malone didn’t mind all of the festivities surrounding Romo.

"It was no big deal," Malone said. "They were trying to give him a special send off, and mission accomplished in that regard.

"All the fans here were excited to see Tony and wanted him to get in the game, but obviously I don’t think they are allowed to put him in the game. For us, we just have to play through it and avoid the distractions. But good for Tony and I think it was a nice gesture by the Mavericks to send him off in a nice manner."

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 21 points and eight rebounds, and he was 8-of-20 form the field while playing 27 minutes. Also for the Mavs, J. J. Barea (13 points, nine assists), Devin Harris (11 points), Yogi Ferrell (10 points, five rebounds) and Dwight Powell (10 points, five boards) were solid contributors.

Gary Harris led the Nuggets with 20 points, Mason Plumlee had 16 points and nine rebounds, Malik Beasley scored 16,Juan Hernangomez notched 14 points and pulled down six rebounds, and Jamal Murray added 10 points and 10 assists.

The Mavs led 26-23 after the first quarter as the crowed appeared hyped and the game took on somewhat of a playoff atmosphere. But when the Mavs began to rest their regulars and turn to their young backups, the tide turned and the Nuggets took control and never let up.

Dallas did manage to get within 83-75 of the Nuggers after three quarters. But Denver stepped on the gas again and outscored the Mavs , 26-16, in the fourth quarter, to out the game away.

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DALLAS –Dirk Nowitzki played his final game of the season Tuesday night when the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Denver Nuggets, 109-91, at American Airlines Center.

Nowitzki will not make the trip to Memphis for the Mavs’ final regular season game on Wednesday night. But he’s already said he’ll return next season for his 20th and possibly his final season in the NBA.

In his farewell to his 19th season, Nowitzki poured in a game-high 21 points in just 27 minutes against the Nuggets. But it couldn’t prevent the Mavs from dropping to 32-49 on the season and losing for the ninth time in their last 10 games.

At times against the Nuggets, it was vintage Nowitzki as he kept nailing jumper after jumper, much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 20,333. But since the Mavs were without starters Harrison Barnes 9rest), Wesley Matthews (rest) and Seth Curry (left shoulder injury) it was a very difficult challenge trying to upend the Nuggets.

Still, as Nowitzki faded into the sunset on another season, coach Rick Carlisle paused to pay homage to the 13-time All-star forward.

"This is one of the truly magnificient players in the history of our league,’’ Carlisle said. "He’s been a rock this year.

"It’s really tough for him to sit out 24, 25 games at the beginning and watch us get our (rear ends) kicked the way we did. He stays positive, he encourages everybody. Then when he gets healthy it takes a little while to get his rhythm and stuff like that."

Nowitzki, who suffered a right Achilles strain that forced him to miss 24 of the first 29 games this season, discussed how the injury was frustrating to the point where it was difficult to watch the Mavs play with him on the sidelines. But he vows to return better than ever next year what for could be his swan song season.

"I’m going to try to keep plugging, try to keep doing a lot of work on the side and try to get back where I can be efficient and help these guys win some games," Nowitzki said. "I’m a little bit disappointed that the season’s over now that I feel the best all year.

"That’s just how it goes. Hopefully I’ll have a big summer and work out and stay ready and next year not have an early freak injury like that."

Nowitzki hasn’t made any concrete offseason plans just yet.

"Obviously I want to go home eventually and travel a bit and see my family over there in Germany," he said. "I haven’t seen them in a while.

"I’m going to be here for a while. I have my baseball game again at the end of June. So I’ll probably be around until then at least."

On various occasions this season, Nowitzki looked like he stepped back in time and could be the player he was 5-10 years ago. Such was the case on Mar. 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nowitzki went into that game needing 20 points to become the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 30,000 points. With drama filling the air, Nowitzki tallied 18 of those 20 points in the first quarter, and then scored the other two points early in the second quarter.

"All things considered I thought Dirk had a great year," Carlisle said. "The 30,000 milestone was tremendous."

Carlisle compared Nowitzki to former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who the Mavs honored on Tuesday.

"He and Romo, they both know what it’s like to be that guy," Carlisle said. "Being that guy is something that a lot of us really don’t understand.

"It was one of the reasons that the Jason Kidd trade (in 2008) was a great trade for this franchise. When he came here Dirk had a guy that knew what it was like to be that guy, and he had a guy that he could talk to about it, and Jason could talk to him."

And with Kidd quarterbacking the show, Nowitzki and the Mavs captured the 2011 NBA title. But the pressure to be that go-to player game after game sometimes can be unbearable.

"It’s a responsibility unlike anything you can imagine when you are the guy that is openly desiring the responsibility for winning and losing games, and winning and losing playoff games and championships," Carlisle said. "And I’ve been around some of the very, very best – these guys are beyond special."

And Nowitzki will return – at least for one more season – to show just show special he is while finally putting a bow on his illustrious career.

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