Career night for Dirk Nowitzki but Pelicans slip past Mavericks in OT
DALLAS— For the 7-footer who has built a Hall of Fame career shooting from the outside, it was the perfect way to reach his latest milestone.
Dirk Nowitzki swished a 20-foot jumper with 8:35 left in the first quarter Monday night, passing Wilt Chamberlain for sixth place on the NBA’s career scoring list — but it wasn’t enough for the Dallas Mavericks.
Elfrid Payton had his fifth straight triple-double and Julius Randle scored 30 points to help the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Mavericks 129-125 in overtime Monday night.
Nowitzki moved past Chamberlain (31,419 points) by making his first two shots of the game. The first was a 20-footer off an assist from Jalen Brunson. Then the 40-year-old German took a feed from Luka Doncic and backed down Kenrich Williams before turning and launching from the top of the key.
“I took my time and faced him up like I’ve done a million times and tried to shoot over him,” Nowitzki said. “It was good to get it over with in the first two shots.”
Payton had 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Dallas rookie Luka Doncic turned in a triple-double of his own with 29 points, 13 boards and 10 assists, including the pass that put Nowitzki higher up in the record book.
“He deserves everything good that happens to him,” Doncic said. “It’s amazing the things he has accomplished, but this one is really amazing for him.”
Nowitzki finished with eight points, giving him 31,424 in his 21 seasons — trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
The two jumpers were a fitting way for Nowitzki to pass Chamberlain, whose listed height of 7-foot-1 is only an inch taller than Nowitzki. But the two achieved their point totals with contrasting styles of play.
Chamberlain once averaged more than 50 points in a season, dominating inside to such a degree that the NBA widened the paint in an effort to neutralize him.
Nowitzki, meanwhile, has made nearly 2,000 3-pointers in his prolific career, establishing the trend of big men with long-range shooting capabilities. He’s an 88 percent free throw shooter, 37 points higher than Chamberlain’s mark.
“The league wanted a change, and I came in at the right time,” Nowitzki said. “They basically forced teams to do a little more movement and more pick-and-roll. All the guys now can shoot and spread the floor. It was just perfect for me and for my skill set.”
Nowitzki’s skill set has naturally diminished with age, especially this season. He missed the first 26 games after offseason ankle surgery and has averaged only six points per game — 15 below his career average. He started for just the ninth time Monday and played 12 minutes.
“Not many people on the outside know the kinds of sacrifices to be on the floor to accomplish something like this,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s just another credit to how he’s approached his entire career.”
WITNESS TO HISTORY
Randle, a Dallas native who grew up watching Nowitzki and admires his inside-outside game, was in the arena for Nowitzki’s previous major milestone as a member of the Lakers when Nowitzki passed the 30,000-point mark.
“I was just happy he didn’t hit the shot on me,” Randle said. “It’s crazy to see he’s breaking a record every time I come. It just shows you his accomplishments and his achievements.”
HOME SWEET HOME
Also serendipitous was Nowitzki reaching the milestone in Dallas — he is the only NBA player to spend 21 seasons with one team. The club launched a new marketing campaign Monday called 41.21.1, commemorating his uniform number and his tenure with the team. It is anticipated that this will be his final season, though Nowitzki has only said publicly he will decide at the end of the year. He reiterated that statement after the game.
Randle scored 11 points in the final 3:29 of regulation, helping the Pelicans rally to force overtime. Doncic made the second of two free throws with 1.9 seconds left to tie the score at 110, and Randle missed a turnaround at the buzzer.
Payton and Frank Jackson each had six points in OT for the Pelicans, who ended a six-game losing streak.
“It’s great, especially after what happened the other day,” Payton said, referring to Saturday’s overtime loss to last-place Phoenix. “To be in a similar situation as far as a close game, to be able to pull it out is big.”
Pelicans: Anthony Davis had 20 points in 21 minutes. Jackson scored 19.
Mavericks: Tim Hardaway Jr. had 21 points. Salah Mejri scored a season-high nine. … Doncic has scored 20 or more points in 38 games, second among Mavs rookies to Jay Vincent (53) in 1981-82.
Pelicans: Visit the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
Mavericks: Visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.