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News » Over easy Nowitzki's emergence could be a sign Mavs peaking at right time

Over easy Nowitzki's emergence could be a sign Mavs peaking at right time

Over easy Nowitzki's emergence could be a sign Mavs peaking at right time
SAN ANTONIO - When the Mavericks eliminated the Spurs from the playoffs in Game 7 here three years ago, they were beating a defending champion.

When they knocked out San Antonio, 106-93, in Game 5 at the AT&T Center on Tuesday, it was clear that the Spurs' days of making those two-month playoff runs to championships are over.

It's hard to imagine that even with a healthy Manu Ginobili and a healthier Tim Duncan, there's enough around those two and Tony Parker to compete with the always growing number of young athletic contenders in the West.

Now the Mavericks may not exactly be poised to make a championship run, either, but in beating San Antonio rather handily and quickly, Rick Carlisle has them peaking at the absolute right time.

They will need it in the next series when they almost certainly face Denver, which is just carving up the New Orleans Hornets in record-setting fashion.

And they will need much from Dirk Nowitzki, which is what the Mavericks finally got from their 7-footer in Game 5.

Nowitzki had his biggest game of the first-round series by far, finishing with 31 points and nine rebounds. He tossed in 11 points in the first quarter when the Mavericks built a 31-20 lead on the home team.

The second quarter belonged to San Antonio which drew to within four points at the half, but the third quarter was all Mavs, and a lot of it was Nowitzki. He had eight points, three rebounds, a big assist inside to Erick Dampier and was shooting with the confidence he showed all season as Dallas pulled out to an 82-67 lead.

Nowitzki tossed in eight more points in the fourth quarter when the Mavericks kept a prideful Spurs team from ever really threatening to pull off the miracle comeback.

The Mavericks and Lakers remain the only teams to eliminate the Spurs from the playoffs since Phoenix took them out in 2000.

Until Game 5, it appeared the Mavericks were going to have to win this thing without any kind of a big game from Dirk. He had not scored more than 20 points in any of the first four games and was averaging nearly 10 points below his season average as the Spurs' double teams had held him to 16.2 points per game. Heck, Dallas took control of the series in Game 4 when Nowitzki was able to contribute a mere 12 points.

It wasn't necessarily helping the Spurs since they had managed to win just one game with this strategy as the Mavericks' superior depth and role players were dominating the series.

In Game 5, Dirk dominated with a 31-point night that included only six missed shots.

It appears that the Mavericks will need a lot more of that in the second round. The Nuggets have become a strong defensive, shot-blocking, rebounding team that set an NBA record with a 58-point margin of victory on the road Monday night in New Orleans.

These Hornets are not the same team that humiliated Dallas a year ago and led to Avery Johnson's firing. But these Nuggets deserve to be viewed as the second-best team in the West right now and it will take continued big games from Josh Howard and the bench and more big nights like last night from Nowitzki for the Mavericks to compete in the next round.

Mavericks fans can celebrate that for the first time since 2006 there is a next round to discuss.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 30, 2009


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