Dirk Nowitzki passed another legend Tuesday night and hopped into some rarefied air en route to adding more pop and sizzle to his Hall of Fame career.
With a game-high 21 points in the Dallas Mavericks’ 95-83 victory over the Utah Jazz at the Energy Solutions Arena, Nowitzki moved by the legendary Oscar Robertson and into 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 26,714 career points. Robertson finished his stellar career with 26,710 points.
The performance by Nowitzki helped the Mavs sweep this critical four-game road trip and move to 48-31 on the season. It also enabled the Mavs to reduce their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to two games, meaning any combination of Dallas victories and Memphis Grizzlies losses equaling two will clinch a playoff spot for the Mavs.
The Mavs, currently slotted for the Western Conference’s seventh seed, also inched to within one game of the Golden State Warriors (48-29) for the sixth seed.
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Nowitzki came out smoking as he nailed all five of his first-quarter field-goal attempts in scoring 11 points. The 16-year veteran got his 18th point — the number he needed to pass Robertson — on a patented jumper with 11:46 remaining in the game.
That put the Mavs comfortably ahead 83-65.
“To reach the top 10 is unreal — it’s been an amazing ride,” said Nowitzki, who was 9 of 11 from the field. “Passing the Big O, who obviously averaged a triple-double during one season, is unbelievable.”
As his team finished a 4-0 season sweep of the Jazz, coach Rick Carlisle seemed emotional trying to put into words what Nowitzki had achieved.
“This is my 30th year in the NBA, and it’s one of the few times I’ve truly been in awe of an accomplishment,” Carlisle said. “A top-10 all-time scorers is an unbelievable accomplishment because it’s a level of excellence that’s beyond belief, and then it’s being able to do it over an extended period of time with consistency.”
Like Nowitzki, the Mavs didn’t waste a whole lot of time showing the Jazz they meant business. In the first period Dallas was hotter than the desert sun as they connected on 16 of 17 shots (94.1 percent shooting).
That’s the highest field-goal percentage in one quarter in the NBA since the Indiana Pacers made 20 of 21 shots for 95.2 percent against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 9, 2010.
It also was the highest shooting percentage in one quarter ever by the Mavs, topping the 90 percent they converted in the third quarter of a Jan. 16, 1991 game when they made 18 of 20 baskets against the San Antonio Spurs.
In addition, this is the first time the Mavs have swept a road trip consisting of at least four games since they went 6-0 on March 18-27, 2007.
Monta Ellis scored 16 points after surviving a scare in the first quarter when he landed hard after a foul by Derrick Favors. Carlisle said he was unsure of Ellis’ status, but knows he’ll be in the starting lineup when the Mavs host San Antonio on Thursday.
Shawn MarionMarian (10 points, six rebounds) also injured his foot during the game but said he’s OK.
Meanwhile, Samuel Dalembert produced six points — including a pair of dunks — in the early surge and again drew praise form Carlisle.
“He’s been playing really well, he’s been giving us energy,” Carlisle said. “His length and activity is a big deal for us and he’s just got to keep the momentum going because we need him.”
The Mavs also need Nowitzki to keep doing what he’s doing. They know what he did Tuesday was special.
“It’s one of the rare unique accomplishments, and he’s going to keep eating up more people,” Carlisle said. “He’s got a long ways to go.”