This is why Dirk Nowitzki is a superstar and why he’ll have a bust in the Hall of Fame one day.
With his team struggling offensively, Nowitzki turned in another magical performance as he scored 20 of his season-high 40 points in the third quarter to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 110-107 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
It was the second time in as many nights that the Mavs defeated the Pelicans after beating them 107-90 in New Orleans on Friday night.
Nowitzki finished the game 10 of 20 from the field, 5 of 9 from 3-point range and 15 of 16 from the free throw line in racking up his first 40-point game since he scored 40 at Utah on April 16, 2012.
The game, however, wasn’t decided until Monta Ellis stripped the ball from Austin Rivers at the buzzer before Rivers could get off a game-tying 3-pointer.
Afterward, all the talk was about Nowitzki, who scored 27 points in the second half to help jump-start the Mavs.
“He’s the great one,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki. “He knew that we needed a lift.
“His spacing is a big part of our offensive attack, and they were late getting to him a few times. The 3s that he hit when we were struggling at the start of the second half — and he got fouled on one or two or them — were just massive plays.’’
So massive that Nowitzki helped the Mavs score 42 points in the third quarter after they only scored 42 in the first half. It’s the most points the Mavs have scored in a quarter this season.
It was all fueled by Nowitzki, who scored 20 points in the third quarter when he made 7 of 9 shots, including 4-of-4 3-pointers. It was the fourth time in Nowitzki’s career that he has scored at least 20 points in a quarter, although he was not happy the game got a little tight at the end.
“If we get this hot we should have won easier than we did,” Nowitzki said. “It came all the way down to the end and we had to grind it out, so that was a little disappointing. But offensively it was a great night in the second half.”
The Mavs appeared on their way to salting this one away earlier when they led 106-99 with 2:42 after Eric Gordon fouled out. But a 3-pointer by Darius Miller got the Pelicans within 108-107 with 11.2 seconds left.
A pair of free throws from Jose Calderon (17 points, five assists) bumped the Mavs’ lead to three with nine seconds remaining. Then came the dramatic ending when Rivers felt he was fouled by Ellis as the game clock was winding down.
“We were fortunate,” Carlisle said. “Our guys played hard, but they played hard, too. They’re a well-coached team and they really fight you. It’s a hard game — I give our guys a lot of credit.”
Both teams struggled in the first half, the Mavericks hitting just 5 of 24 shots and the Pelicans 8 of 25 at the six-minute mark of the second quarter.
“It was an ugly game in the first half,” Nowitzki said. “We had some good looks that didn’t really go down for us. It was the fourth game in five nights, and it was the same for them as well, so it kind of looked like it. Then all of a sudden the basket started opening up and everybody’s confidence went up.”