DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki finally leads the Dallas Mavericks in scoring again. He has more work to do if he wants to make the playoffs for a 13th straight season.
The 7-foot German passed teammate O.J. Mayo even before getting a season-high 35 and hitting a last-second 3-pointer to complete a stirring rally against Chicago over the weekend.
The Mavericks started winning at a playoff pace once Nowitzki got settled in after missing the first 27 games following the first knee surgery of his career. Their playoff odds still aren’t good going into a critical game Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the teams they’re chasing, but without a 15-1 run in the final 4 minutes of the 100-98 win over the Bulls, the odds would be even worse.
In other words, they’re a reflection of feisty owner Mark Cuban with their core of four veterans with at least 13 years of NBA experience apiece.
“Nobody gives up. I think we’re all competitors,” Nowitzki said. “Mark ... is probably the biggest competitor. You see the tweets with Donald Trump every day. They’re competing over Twitter, those two morons. And obviously the leadership of this team with the older guys. We’ve all obviously got a lot of pride, a lot of fight, and that’s what you’ll be seeing these last couple of weeks.”
Nowitzki said the same thing about the Lakers, who started the season as a good bet to win the Western Conference after putting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash alongside Kobe Bryant. They’ve changed coaches and battled injuries and chemistry issues, and started Monday tied with Utah for the final playoff spot in the West, a game and a half ahead of Dallas (36-37).
Ultimately, the Lakers and Mavericks might be looking up at the Jazz, who have by far the best home record of the three and play five of their next six in Utah. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are starting a four-game trip with stops in playoff-bound Denver, Sacramento and Portland, where Dallas rarely plays well.