Dirk Nowitzki Drops 20 in Final Game, but Spurs Cruise Past Mavericks

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Dirk Nowitzki Drops 20 in Final Game, but Spurs Cruise Past Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki stands on the court listening as former players pay tribute to him after the team's NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Dallas, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks were unable to send Dirk Nowitzki out with a win in his final game.

The San Antonio Spurs defeated Dallas 105-94 on Wednesday at AT&T Center in the future Hall of Famer’s final contest after he announced his retirement Tuesday. San Antonio has now won three games in a row, while the Mavericks saw their own two-game streak come to an end.

San Antonio was also able to avoid the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed with the victory, meaning it will not have to face the mighty Golden State Warriors in the first round.

LaMarcus Aldridge (34 points and 16 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (19 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals) led the way for the Spurs. Nowitzki (20 points) was one of five Mavericks to score in double figures in defeat.

While Wednesday’s game was important for the Spurs for playoff positioning, the primary storyline was the end of Nowitzki’s career.

San Antonio greeted him with a video tribute highlighting some of his memorable battles against the team throughout his 21 seasons, which caused No. 41 to break down into tears:

The game was never realistically in doubt, with San Antonio building a 20-point lead by halftime and putting things on cruise control against a Mavericks side playing without Luka Doncic. Nowitzki still managed a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds on 8-of-21 shooting from the field.

It is a credit to the Spurs they were ready to roll out the red carpet for Nowitzki since it wasn’t official he would retire until Tuesday. He poured in a season-high 30 points during the Mavericks’ win over the Phoenix Suns and then told the fans at American Airlines Center it was his final home game of a legendary career:

While his last actual game came on the road, it was fitting he faced Dallas’ Southwest Division rivals given the memorable battles he had with the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

San Antonio defeated Nowitzki’s Mavericks four times in the postseason, including during its championship runs in 2003 and 2014. The 2014 series was in the first round but went the full seven games, while the 2003 one was in the Western Conference Finals.

Nowitzki enjoyed some defining victories over the Spurs as well, including during a second-round series in 2006 that went the full seven games. He thrived in the pressure-packed environment, notching 37 points and 15 rebounds and proving he could come through in the clutch well before he won the 2011 NBA Finals MVP with a victory over LeBron James’ Miami Heat.

Dallas also beat the Spurs in the first round of the 2009 playoffs.

That Parker and Ginobili were such central figures in some of those series is fitting because Nowitzki helped pave the way for additional international players with his brilliant career. He is arguably the best international player to ever lace it up in the NBA and helped remove stereotypes about the ability of Europeans to succeed at this level.

It is one of the most important things on a resume that includes the 2006-07 league MVP, the 2011 NBA Finals MVP, 12 All-NBA selections and 14 All-Star nods.

He added a historic moment to that list during the 2018-19 campaign when he moved up to sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a vintage fadeaway from the top of the key. Only some of the all-time greats in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan scored more in their careers, underscoring Nowitzki’s place in the league hierarchy.

While the 40-year-old was past his prime this season and not the version that cemented his status as an NBA legend, the 2018-19 campaign was never about numbers. Instead, he was greeted with warm ovations across the league from opposing fans and players as a celebration of his memorable career.

Wednesday was no different, as one of his old rivals showed nothing but appreciation for his greatness.

           

What’s Next?

The Mavericks turn their attention toward the offseason and their efforts to improve the roster around Doncic, while the Spurs prepare for their 22nd consecutive trip to the playoffs.

Read More

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