The Mavericks gave it all they had in Game 4 of their opening-round series against the Thunder, but Oklahoma City was just too much for the old, depleted Mavs as they took a 3-1 series lead on Saturday night with a 119-108 win.
While the Mavs have been fighting an uphill battle the entire series, that has not stopped 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki from playing his heart out. The future Hall of Famer has averaged 19.5 points per per game in the series acting as their primary offensive option.
Dirk knows that he only has a few years left in his career, and even though Dallas clearly doesn’t have a championship-level roster, if he’s going to go out, he’s going to go down swinging. If you need further proof of Nowitzki’s grit, take this anecdote about an interaction between Nowitzki and head coach Rick Carlisle during Game 4 as described by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Dirk Nowitzki lingered on the bench several seconds longer than his teammates at the end of the timeout. He stared at the floor, head down, towel covering it. Finally, he squirted some water in his face and creaked back out onto the American Airlines Center court.
Thirty-four seconds later, with 6:01 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Dallas Mavericks trailing by double digits, coach Rick Carlisle sent David Lee to the scorer’s table. Carlisle recognized how gassed his 37-year-old star was and wanted to give Nowitzki a quick breather.
But the living legend looked in Carlisle’s eyes and sternly said one word: “No.” Lee checked in for Zaza Pachulia instead.
Even with Nowitzki clearly gassed and the game nearly out of reach, he refused to come out, knowing that if there was any chance of a comeback, he needed to be on the court.
“I felt like my wind was decent enough to kind of battle it through,” Nowitzki said after the game. “All you’re thinking basically is just make one more push, make one more push.”
Dirk probably won’t win another championship in his career unless he leaves Dallas, but that is not on Dirk Nowitzki, and his will to win should not be overlooked despite his team’s lack of postseason success — they haven’t won a series — after claiming the title in 2011.