Dirk Nowitzki continues to tear down historic barriers.
On a Tuesday night when Sacramento looked like world-beaters, Nowitzki led a memorable comeback as the Mavs rallied from a 24-point deficit for an epic 106-98 victory over the Kings at the American Airlines Center.
The win pushed the Mavs to 5-3 and squared their record to 1-1 on this four-game homestand.
Nowitzki entered the game needing 17 points to move past Hakeem Olajuwon and become the No. 9 all-time scorer and the all-time leading international scorer in NBA history. The magical number came when the 17-year veteran buried a 19-footer with 8:56 remaining in the game which put the Mavs ahead 84-75.
The sellout crowd of 19,663 stood up and roared after Nowitzki’s jumper swished through the net.
“It was special to do it in front of the home crowd,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 23 points. “They knew exactly how many points I needed. I made it and they gave me a standing ovation, so it was a special moment.”
It was doubly special because the Mavs had to slowly chop away after Sacramento built a 44-20 lead with 8:46 remaining before halftime.
The Mavs did it the old-fashioned way — with grit, determination and hustle — and a lot of players contributed to the final outcome.
Chandler Parsons scored 19 points, Monta Ellis added 16, Devin Harris chipped in 12, Brandan Wright had 10 and Tyson Chandler finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds while registering his fourth double-double in the past five games.
“We did a great job in the second half,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “In the second half, the difference in the game was our point guards putting pressure on the ball and making it harder for them to get into their stuff.
“Those guys exerted a lot of energy. Twice we had guys ask to come out because they were tired, which is what you want because that means you are playing to fill exhaustion.”
The Kings led 57-48 at the half, but the Mavs won the third quarter 30-15 and took a 78-72 lead into the final period.
The win marked the 21st straight game the Mavs have beaten the Kings in Dallas. It’s the longest such streak against any team in Mavs history.
“They’re well-coached, they play hard, they got some playmakers and they really took it to us early,” Nowitzki said. “They did something [defensively] on the pick-and-roll coverage that we hadn’t seen yet.
“They brought a big guy over on our side screen-and-rolls, and it messed us up a little bit. The pick-and-roll game is a big part of our game and they took that away pretty good, then we adjusted.”
The adjustments certainly paid off on this historic night.
This is the type of game that the Mavs may look back on as a turning point in their season. The Kings motored to a laughable 24-4 lead with 3:20 left in the first period as the Mavs could do no right and needed a GPS system to find the basket.
Behind Rudy Gay and four 3-pointers from Ben McLemore, the Kings mounted a massive 44-20 lead with 8:46 remaining before halftime. But the Mavs kept chipping away until they seized control of the game.
“Overall, I thought our energy was great there in the second half,” Nowitzki said. “We were all over the place, we were helping each other, we were pushing the ball.
“That’s how we’ve got to play if we want to win. There’s a lot of good teams, especially in the West, so we’ve got to bring it every night.”