DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki turned back the clock Friday night and reminded folks that he still has the ability to take over a game.
He just wants to do it more often before these playoffs expire on the Dallas Mavericks.
In Game 3 of the Mavs’ best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets, Nowitzki scored 34 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Despite that solid performance, the Mavs still lost to the Rockets, 130-128, and now trail this series 3-0.
Game 4 is at 8 tonight at American Airlines Center. If the Mavs win tonight, Game 5 will be played Tuesday night in Houston.
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What Nowitzki did Friday night at his age – he turns 37 on June 19 – was phenomenal considering most players will have long retired by now. But he has been known to do the impossible, to perfect the impractical.
Throughout his stellar 17-year career, Nowitzki has been like the ants who kept working through the night, through the week, and through the month, until they built that foot-high ant bed.
"He lives the game,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said after Sunday morning’s shootaround. "He’s got great love and respect for the game.
"It’s obvious that he has a lot of ability and talent, but he’s one of those special guys that have taken everything to a higher level. The ability to sustain over long stretches of your career in your late 30s only happens with total devotion and an unbelievable great work ethic.’’
Those 34 points Nowitzki tallied in Game 3 were the most he’s scored a game since he poured in 34 points against Sacramento on Jan. 31, 2014.
But individual accomplishments are not high on Nowitzki’s radar. He’s as team oriented as they come, hence the huge home town discounts he keeps giving this franchise when he becomes a free agent so they’ll have enough dollars to pursue other talented players.
"It’s going to lab every day, that’s how you look at it,’’ Nowitzki said. "To me in my career there was always a mindset of when I had a good game I had to go in the next gym and the next day I had to validate it, I had to work on it.
"If I had a bad game I had to go to the gym even more. I had to get my shot back, I had to work on some stuff. So to me I’ve been almost doing my routine my entire career almost every day.’’
It’s a routine that has helped make Nowitzki the No. 7 all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
Nowitzki’s passionate desire to win, to be the best, to be on top of the world, is a case study that Carlisle has seen before in players who live for the moment of being crown champions of the world.
"I had Reggie Miller when he was 39,’’ said Carlisle, who coached Miller when the pair were with the Indiana Pacers. "His last game that he played for us in Indiana he was the leading scorer in a playoff game -- he scored 26.
"And he could have kept playing for years beyond that, he took such great care of himself. Dirk’s in the same mold, Jason Kidd was in the same mold.’’
It’s a mold most athletes don’t even care to have, because they don’t love the game the way Nowitzki loves the game.
"(He’s) so very rare, very unique, a once in a generation type of player,’’ Carlisle said. "And you just hope that you get an opportunity just to even watch a guy like this, let along coach him.’’