Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dirk inspiring in Golden romp

Buoyed by the stirring return of the MVP, the Mavericks gave their playoff hopes and psyche a considerable boost by blowing past Golden State 111-86 Wednesday night at American Airlines Center. Dirk Nowitzki set the tone just by suiting up and wave of emotion never washed out.

“Just seeing Dirk out there gave us a lot of life,” Josh Howard said. “His presence is big on this team and we came out and played hard for him. He showed a lot of energy when he was on the court and that carried over to everyone.”

The victory keeps the Mavs (47-28) seventh in the Western Conference and pushed ninth-place Golden State (45-30) two games back. It also gave Dallas a 3-1 series win over the Warriors. Denver (46-29) sits eighth.

The win also means something upstairs. The Mavs had dropped 11 in a row to teams with winning records, including 10 straight since adding Jason Kidd. Beating the team that sent them packing last summer is also huge. Two contenders are up next – the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix – on the road this weekend.

“If we want to do something in the playoffs,” Nowitzki said, “we have to do it together.”

Back after missing four games, Nowitzki sent a charge through the building during pregame warm-ups and the sellout crowd of 20,331 exploded when starting lineups were announced. (In a display of gamesmanship, Avery Johnson and Don Nelson exchanged starting lineups about 20 minutes before tip. It’s usually about an hour.)

Avery Johnson admitted after the game that everyone in Mavsland knew that Nowitzki would play. The ruse was another example of the chess match coaches play.

“Nellie taught me that,” Johnson quipped.

Nowitzki didn’t lead the team in any statistical category, but he wasn’t out there to pull a Willis Reed. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder tallied 18 points and five boards in 27 scripted minutes. Nowitzki played in spurts of about 4-6 minutes in the first half and wasn’t left on the bench too long. He also had a message for his teammate before the game.

“Let’s hoop,” he said

Read the rest of this story with more game coverage at

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