With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Dallas Mavericks got mad and manufactured their best offensive performance of the season.
And they used some old veterans — sprinkled with a little youth — to get the job done.
Dirk Nowitzki, age 37, defied Father Time yet again, pouring in a season-high 40 points in the 132-120 overtime victory Sunday over the Portland Trail Blazers at American Airlines Center.
The victory pushed the eighth-seeded Mavs (35-35) within a half-game of the sixth-seeded Blazers (36-35) in the Western Conference standings.
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More important, the Mavs moved to 2-0 against Portland this year and clinched the three-game season series. That’s critical in case a tiebreaker is needed to decide seeding or a spot in the playoffs.
Sunday’s victory — the highest scoring game of the season for Dallas — featured a touch of everything, including the Mavs snapping their five-game home losing streak. Dallas shot 55.1 percent from the field and converted 15 of 25 attempts on 3-point attempts.
Nowitzki joined Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone as the only players to score at least 40 points in a game at age 37 or older. It was Nowitzki’s first 40-point game since Jan. 11, 2014.
Never underestimate greatness at any age — that’s what I always say about guys like him.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on Dirk Nowitzki
“Never underestimate greatness at any age — that’s what I always say about guys like him,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki. “It’s not like he’s just an older guy who happened to have a good game. He’s been doing this on a somewhat consistent basis all year, coming up with a monster game. We certainly needed it.”
Nowitzki scored eight unanswered points in overtime to push the Mavs from a 116-113 lead to a comfortable 124-113 cushion with 1:37 to go. That included back-to-back 3-pointers to wrap up the Mavs’ franchise-record 12th overtime game this season.
Dirk Nowitzki played his 1,329th NBA game Sunday, moving into a tie for 13th place with Moses Malone.
The Mavs also needed the 31 points and 16 assists — both season highs — from point guard Deron Williams. It was the first time a Dallas player had at least 30 points and 15 assists in a game since Jason Kidd collected 33 and 16 in a 140-130 win at Phoenix on Jan. 12, 1996.
Dallas was playing without Chandler Parsons, sidelined with a sore right hamstring.
I grew up watching him, I grew up wanting to emulate him, and I had a chance to play with him and play under him, and so it definitely means a lot.
Deron Williams on Jason Kidd
“Anytime you can do something that J-Kidd did, that says a lot,” said Williams, who was 11 of 18 from the field. “I grew up watching him, I grew up wanting to emulate him, and I had a chance to play with him and play under him, and so it definitely means a lot.”
The Mavs also got an unexpected 13 points and season highs in rebounds (14) and blocks (6) from seldom-used center Salah Mejri. The rookie from Tunisia played a season-high 33 minutes and enjoyed the best game of his career Sunday, which also was Tunisian Independence Day.
“You’re just sitting there on the end of the bench, nobody talks to you, nobody talks about you, and suddenly coach says, ‘Hey, Salah, let’s go,’ ” Mejri said. “It’s tough mentally. It’s tough even for your body to stay ready for this game.
“But I’m trying to do it, and I think I did a good job today.”
The game almost had a disastrous ending for the Mavs. Mejri missed two free throws with the score tied at 113 and 13.7 seconds remaining in regulation. The Blazers called timeout afterward, but Damian Lillard misfired on a 3-pointer as time expired.
“This is a huge win for us,” Williams said. “There was a lot at stake here. We only play them three times and they’re in front of us in the standings, so we gained a full game on them, and we’ll see them again the next game.”