HOUSTON, United States // Dirk Nowitzki scoffed at the notion that he’s playing as well now as he did when he led the Dallas Mavericks to a title in 2011.
He will, however, concede that at age 35 he’s having a pretty good season.
Nowitzki scored 31 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Mavericks to a 111-104 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.
He joked that his big night was simply luck before getting serious and discussing the work he puts in off the court.
“Hopefully I can light it up a couple of more years and then slowly fade away,” he said, breaking into a huge smile.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle isn’t surprised at what Nowitzki, who is averaging 21.5 points a game, is doing for his team this season.
“He’s the great Dirk Nowitzki,” Carlisle said. “He’s one of the great players in the history of the game.”
Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of last season after knee surgery and the Mavericks missed the play-offs for the first time since the 1999/2000 season. He feels like his game is good now and his injury is behind him, but he wants to do more.
“The driving the ball is what’s missing a little now,” he said. “I do a lot of one or two dribble and then up, but I want to get back to driving some more to the basket and get to the foul line. I don’t think I’m in 2011 shape, but compared to the last two years I feel a lot better. The right knee is great and I feel better.”
Nowitzki’s performance on Monday night gave him 25,629 career points, which moved him past Alex English for 13th place in scoring in NBA history.
Houston cut the lead to six after a 3-pointer by Aaron Brooks with about 3:30 left, but Nowitzki knocked down consecutive baskets to push the Mavericks lead to 107-97.
Houston coach Kevin McHale was frustrated that his team were unable to slow Nowitzki down.
“We tried a bunch of different stuff,” McHale said. “We tried showing and coming back. We tried staying on there. We tried running at him. Nothing seemed to work.”
Dwight Howard had 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who were playing their second straight game without leading scorer James Harden, who was out with a sprained left ankle.
Dallas started the final period by using a 9-4 run powered by three 3-pointers, including two from Jae Crowder, to push the lead to 95-82.
Jeremy Lin, who has been out since December 13 because of back spasms, scored 20 and Chandler Parsons had 21 for Houston.
Dallas outscored Houston 17-10 over the last five minutes of the third quarter to stretch a one-point lead into an 86-78 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Vince Carter scored seven points during that time and Crowder added five.
Monta Ellis had 18 points for Dallas, Vince Carter had 16 and Jose Calderon added 15 points with five assists.
With the speedy Harden out, the Rockets relied on their inside game and outscored the Mavericks 60-32 in the paint. But the Mavericks had the advantage from 3-point range, where they made 11 to Houston’s seven 3-pointers.
“They hit a lot of tough shots tonight, especially in the second half,” Howard said. “They shot great the whole game. When a team is shooting that good they are tough to beat.”
OTHER MONDAY RESULTS
Heat 121, Hawks 119 (OT)
LeBron James scored 38 points, Michael Beasley made two free throws with 9.2 seconds left to put Miami up for good and the Heat beat the Atlanta Hawks 121-119 in overtime.
The Heat wasted an early 13-0 lead, then rallied from seven points down in the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter. Ray Allen made three free throws with 8 seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime, after getting fouled by Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll.
Allen finished with 19 points, Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen each scored 12 and Chris Bosh finished with 11 for the Heat, who played without Dwyane Wade and still beat the Hawks for the ninth straight time.
Jeff Teague scored 26 points, Paul Millsap made seven 3-pointers on the way to a 25-point night and Al Horford finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta.
Kyle Korver scored 15 for the Hawks, who had a chance to win it at the end of overtime, but never got a good look. Chalmers used Miami’s foul to give with 2.3 seconds left, sending Atlanta back to the huddle where they used their last time out to draw a play.
Pelicans 113, Kings 87
Tyreke Evans made a memorable return to Sacramento, scoring a season-high 25 points and adding 12 assists to help New Orleans snap a four-game losing streak.
DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Kings, who committed 22 turnovers in losing for the sixth time in eight games. Isaiah Thomas had 21 points and Marcus Thornton had 19. Rudy Gay made 2-of -12 shots and scored 11 points.
Anthony Davis had 21 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans. Jrue Holiday had 17 points and 10 assists, and Eric Gordon also had 17 points.
Suns 117, Lakers 90
Gerald Green hit six 3-pointers and scored 22 points and Miles Plumlee grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds.
Plumlee added 17 points while having his way inside with an ailing Pao Gasol in the Suns’ third straight win.
Marcus Morris added 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range for Phoenix, which held a 62-39 edge on the boards in their eighth win in nine games.
Nick Young scored 19 points and Jodie Meeks 18 for the undermanned Lakers, who fell to 1-2 since Kobe Bryant was sidelined with a knee injury.
Warriors 89, Nuggets 81
David Lee had 28 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth straight double-double.
Stephen Curry, battling foul trouble much of the night, added 14 points in the first meeting between the teams since the Warriors, as the sixth seed, ousted third-seeded Denver 4-2 in the first round of the play-offs last spring.
Klay Thompson scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, helping Golden State overcome a fourth-quarter deficit for the fourth time this season and sending the Nuggets to their season-high fourth consecutive loss.
Ty Lawson had 16 points to lead Denver, and Andre Miller and Timofey Mozgov had 14 points apiece.
Pacers 103, Nets 86
Lance Stephenson scored a career-high 26 points in his hometown, Paul George also had 26 and the Indiana Pacers went on to their third straight easy victory.
Stephenson, who recorded his NBA-leading third triple-double of the season Sunday in a rout of Boston, did most of his damage as a scorer, back where he did plenty of it in high school. He became the career scoring leader in New York state, scoring nearly 3,000 points at Abraham Lincoln High School.
Joe Johnson scored 17 points for the Nets, who lost their third straight. Kevin Garnett, moving to the center spot after Brook Lopez was lost to a broken right foot, had 12.
Bobcats 111, Bucks 110 (OT)
Al Jefferson had a season-high 26 points, and Kemba Walker nearly had a triple double as the Bobcats won for the fourth time in five games.
Walker had 25 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, and Anthony Tolliver had 12 points on four 3-pointers. Rookie Cody Zeller added a career-high 12 points.
Brandon Knight had 26 points and 14 assists to lead the Bucks (6-22), who have lost five of their last six games.
Knicks 103, Magic 98
Carmelo Anthony had 19 points before leaving the game with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter.
New York led by 25 points before having their lead cut all the way to a point in the fourth quarter. Beno Udrih hit six straight free-throws in the final 26 seconds to help preserve the win.
JR Smith added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 26 points. Glen Davis added 20 and Jameer Nelson 17.
Pistons 115, Cavaliers 92
Josh Smith scored 25 points, Brandon Jennings added 21 and Detroit won for the seventh time in eight road games.
Jennings also had 13 assists for Detroit, who went ahead for good midway through the first quarter and built a 21-point lead late in the first half. The margin reached 28 points in the fourth quarter as the Pistons rolled to their biggest win of the season.
Kyrie Irving scored 21 points for Cleveland.
Spurs 112, Raptors 99
Tony Parker had 26 points and eight assists for San Antonio.
Manu Ginobili had 18 points and Danny Green was 4 for 6 on 3-pointers in scoring 14 points for San Antonio (21-7). Kawhi Leonard added 13 points and 10 rebounds after missing Saturday’s game due to a dental procedure.
Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross had 23 points each and DeMar DeRozan added 13 points for Toronto (11-15).
Grizzlies 104, Jazz 94
Zach Randolph powered Memphis, leading the team in points (22), rebounds (10) and assists (seven).
Jerryd Bayless and Mike Miller came off the bench to provide 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Trey Burke and Richard Jefferson each scored 18 to lead Utah.