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News » High five Nowitzki's emergence could be a sign Mavs peaking at right time

High five Nowitzki's emergence could be a sign Mavs peaking at right time

High five 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, Rick Carlisle has them peaking at the absolute right time.

They will need it in the next series when they almost certainly will 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.

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.

"They didn't double-team him to start the game tonight, so he was able to get more shots," Carlisle said. "His stats show that they were right to do what they did to him most of the series. We saw double-teams we have never seen in this league.

"But Dirk was finding ways to help us win even before he was scoring like he did tonight."

Until Game 5, it appeared the Mavericks were going to have to win this thing without any kind of a big scoring 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.

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.

"Denver is playing phenomenally right now, probably better than the Lakers," Nowitzki said. "Whoever we play, we're going on the road and we're going to be the underdog. So winning this series on the road was huge for us."

Mavericks fans will tell you that winning this series anywhere was huge.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 30, 2009


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