Maybe Dirk Nowitzki did have an extended championship hangover.
With all of the talk focused on other teams and the NBA lockout all but erasing any memories of his triumphant summer, Nowitzki started the season looking like a different player.
His scoring average dipped five points from a season ago, then he sat four games to rest.
Throughout his 13-year career, his conditioning was never in question. But just months after hoisting his first championship trophy, Nowitzki took time off to get into better game shape.
Following his brief hiatus, Nowitzki was selected to his 11th consecutive All-Star Game despite submitting the worst numbers since his rookie season and has played phenomenal basketball again.
Nowitzki has scored over 20 points for six consecutive games and has the Mavericks once again among the top teams in the Western Conference, especially following last night’s 96-92 victory against the Clippers.
After scoring just 11 points in the first three quarters, Nowitzki erupted for 11 more in the final seven minutes of the game. He buried only three-pointer of the night to cut the deficit to one for Dallas.
From there, he willed his way to the free throw line, sinking 6-of-7 attempts in the fourth quarter and buried a 19-foot jump shot with 41 seconds to extend the lead to three.
Even on an off night, there was no question the Mavericks would turn to Nowitzki in crunch time and once again, he delivered.
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Indiana is looking to snap a three-game losing streak against a team it has only beaten once since adding LeBron James. Center Roy Hibbert is playing his first game on national television since being named to an All-Star and is averaging career-highs in points, blocks, rebounds and field goal percentage this season.
Since being robbed of a victory against the Thunder, Portland has lost two of three, including a double overtime defeat in Dallas. Coach Nate McMillan has considered changing his starting lineup, sending Raymond Felton to the bench in favor of Jamal Crawford. During his first season in Portland, Crawford is averaging 14.8 points and 3.8 assists in 26 minutes.
The Celtics were able to win at home as Rajon Rondo submitted his second triple-double of the season. Chicago was playing without Derrick Rose as he missed his seventh game of the season and saw a back specialist on Monday. An MRI revealed no structural damage and the Bulls hope to have him back on the court as soon as he is healthy.
The reigning champions will get a taste of the newest sensation as they play against New York. Point guard Jeremy Lin was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday after leading the Knicks to five consecutive wins and averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game. New York is looking to sustain its success with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony set to return to action.
Orlando is hoping to prove its 102-89 dismantling of Miami a week ago was no fluke. Center Dwight Howard dominated, with 25 points, 24 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. The Heat were held to 14 points below its season average and is looking to keep Milwaukee as the only team it has lost to twice this season.
The Celtics are surrendering just 86.7 points per game, second fewest in the league and have held their opponents to under 100 points for 26-straight games. The scoring average for Dallas has slipped nearly six points per game, but it did mange to win both meetings last season. Playing back-to-back nationally televised games, the Mavericks are looking to reestablish their dominance over the league.
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