Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki credits Paul Pierce with making him better

Dirk Nowitzki credits Paul Pierce with making him better

BOSTON – Once Dirk Nowitzki finishes his NBA career, he will be remembered as the greatest international player in NBA history.

And while no one disputes his career has been nothing short of amazing, Nowitzki says he had added motivation to go out and steadily improve.

That added motivation goes by the name of Paul Pierce, whose jersey No. 34 will be retired after today’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Both Pierce and Nowitzki were part of the 1998 draft class, with Nowitzki going ninth overall to Milwaukee (they traded his rights immediately to Dallas) with Pierce being selected right after him with the 10th overall pick by Boston.

Being drafted right next to each would bring about comparisons.

Early on, that was not a good thing for Nowitzki, who struggled at both ends of the floor, prompting some hecklers to refer to him as “Irk Nowitzki” because he didn’t play defense.

He averaged 8.2 points per game in his first season.

Meanwhile, Pierce’s transition to the NBA seemed relatively smooth on the floor.

Pierce was a strong contender for the league’s rookie of the year award, averaging 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

“Paul came out the gate, played unbelievable right away,” Nowitzki recalled. “That put a lot of heat on me in Dallas.”

But in time, Nowitzki developed into the franchise player Dallas was hoping for and now ranks among the NBA’s all-time greats in several categories.

And Nowitzki credits the example set by Pierce as being a motivating factor in his evolution into one of the NBA’s better players for more than a decade.

“It made me work, pushed me to work hard and get better in the summer and add new things,” said Nowitzki, a 13-time All-Star, league MVP (2007), NBA Finals champion and Finals MVP (2011). “He’s been tremendous for this franchise.

Nowitzki added, “Just a clutch gene he had, the big-time shots he made. He really was the whole package offensively. You couldn’t send him one way to shoot. He could post with the best of them. He was the complete package and it’s been fun and an honor to compete against him for a long, long time.”

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Celtics more than comfortable at home

Celtics more than comfortable at home

BOSTON – For the third year in a row the Celtics had a homestand of five games or longer. And just like the previous two extended homestands, the Celtics closed it out with a victory as they pulled away for a 97-90 win over Dallas on Wednesday.
 
The Celtics went 4-1 on the homestand, similar to the 5-1 stretch they had last March which helped propel them to the best in the Eastern Conference at 53-29.
 
The Celtics improved to 12-2 at home, which is tied with San Antonio for the most home wins in the NBA this season.
 
“This is good. We obviously want to keep building on it,” said Al Horford. “We’re doing a good job, playing at a high level.”
 
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s win over the Mavericks:


 
CELTICS DEPTH
Players go down, someone emerges. It has been the unspoken narrative of this Celtics team all season. They play as though no adversity is too great, no hurdle too steep, to be overcome. And a big part of that confidence stems from having a second unit that’s starting to deliver more consistency. That was indeed the case on Wednesday night when they outscored their backup brethren, 36-23.

KYRIE IRVING
We talk a lot about his fourth-quarter impact, but not nearly enough about how efficient he is in that part of the game. He ranks fifth in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, doing so by literally scoring a point for every minute he’s on the floor in the fourth. Yes, Irving averages seven points scored and seven minutes played in the fourth Only LeBron James and Kristaps Porzingis average as many or more points scored per minute played in the fourth, as Irving. Against Dallas, Irving had nine points in the fourth while playing just 6:46 in the quarter.


 
AL HORFORD
The stat sheet continues to get stuffed on a nightly basis by Horford. But the one category to keep an eye on is field-goal attempts; specifically, when Horford gets at least 10 shot attempts. The Celtics are 13-2 this season when Horford takes at least 10 shots from the field. Against the Mavs, he had 17 points on 7-for-17 shooting, along with eight rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots.


 


JAYSON TATUM
It really does feel awkward game after game talking about Tatum and what he’s doing. And yet, he doesn’t really leave you much of a choice because of his play. Without Jaylen Brown (eye inflammation) and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation) against Dallas, the Celtics needed one of their main guys to bring a little more to the game than usual. Tatum once again rose to the challenge, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.


 
THE LOB DUNK

The Celtics have been great about making high energy plays with their defense all season. But lately, they’re figuring out ways to get the fans pumped up with exciting plays offensively like the alley-oop. Against the Mavericks, Marcus Smart hooked up with Horford for an alley-oop dunk that cut Dallas’ lead to 59-55 in the third. The two hooked up later on to put Boston ahead 64-63 with 5:44 to play in the third. The reserves got into the act early in the fourth when Shane Larkin connected with Daniel Theis for a play that cut Dallas’ lead to 73-72.

Stars, studs and duds: Larkin helps swing momentum for Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Larkin helps swing momentum for Celtics

BOSTON – The energy level seemed low, multi-effort plays were virtually non-existent and for the most part, the Boston Celtics weren’t playing as hard as the Dallas Mavericks for long stretches of play on Wednesday.

And so Brad Stevens turned to Shane Larkin, a player who has shown the ability to swing the tide of a game in Boston’s momentum.

That’s exactly what Larkin did on Wednesday, having his best game in weeks as Boston rallied for a 97-90 win over Dallas.

Larkin had 11 points for Boston, shooting 4-for-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range.

The numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping; that is, until you factor in Larkin hadn’t scored in double figures since tallying 16 points on Nov. 10 against Charlotte.

Coming into Wednesday’s game, the number of games Larkin played in (6) was equal to the number of DNP-CDs (did not play-coaches decision) since the 16-point scoring outburst.

And in those six games he did see time, he missed 14 of his 15 shot attempts.

“Mentally, I think I’m prepared for whatever comes to me,” Larkin said. “That’s what I do every single game.”

Larkin’s opportunity to play came about in part because the Celtics were missing Jaylen Brown (eye inflammation) and Marcus Morris (left knee rehabilitation).

“If I get called on, I just try to go and do my thing,” Larkin said.

And while he may go long stretches without seeing any time, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens remains confident in Larkin when he puts him on the floor.

“You know what he’s going to be able to do,” Stevens said. “When he goes in, he can change the tempo. He can get into people on defense. He’s a good basketball player. And when we got him, to me it’s all about … games where it’s not going great, he can change the tempo of that. And nights where you don’t have all your bodies, you feel great about him with the ball.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 97-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

When it comes to getting it done the stretch, Kyrie Irving continues to set himself apart from the masses. He led all scorers on Wednesday with 23 points which included nine in the fourth quarter.

Al Horford

He didn’t shoot the ball as well as we’ve seen in recent games, but Horford was nonetheless effective for the Celtics.

Harrison Barnes

The Celtics by and large did a good job of contesting Barnes’ shots, but that still didn’t stop him from having an effective scoring night. He led the Mavericks with 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

With both Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (left knee) out, the Celtics needed the 19-year-old rookie to carry a little more of the load scoring and rebounding the ball. He would tally his second double-double of the season, with 17 points and 10 rebounds with one steal.

Dirk Nowitzki

It wasn’t dominant Dirk from years past, but the 7-footer is still really good. He had 16 points and six rebounds.

Shane Larkin

Having missed 14 of his last 15 shots coming into Wednesday’s game, Larkin made the most of his opportunity to play. He had 11 points off the bench – that’s only the third time he has scored 10 or more points this season – on 4-for-8 shooting which included him shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range.

Daniel Theis

His energy and all-out hustle on the glass has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Celtics this season. On Wednesday he finished with seven points on 3-for-6 shooting to go with a career-high 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Maxi Kleber

If you didn’t know his name before Wednesday’s game, you do now. He was a major factor at both ends of the floor, finishing with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting along with five rebounds and five blocked shots.

 

DUDS

Dennis Smith Jr.

Similar to their first meeting, Smith got off to a great start only to struggle for the bulk of the game shooting the ball. He had 12 points, but did so on 4-for-16 shooting.

Marcus Smart

This was not one of Smart’s better games, for sure. The fact that he finished with two points on 1-for-5 shooting wasn’t the problem. His playmaking was off all game, evident by him tallying as many turnovers (4) as assists (4).

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