By Dwain Price, McClatchy Newspapers –
DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki finally rediscovered his shooting touch. Unfortunately for him, his Dallas Mavericks teammates are still looking for theirs.
Paul George scored a career-high 30 points as the Indiana Pacers beat the Mavs to the finish line, 98-87, on Friday night before a crowd of 20,146 at American Airlines Center.
Coupled with Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma City, this is the second time this season the Mavs (14-10) have dropped consecutive games at home. The defending NBA champions opened the season with home losses to Miami and Denver.
About the only positive the Mavericks can take from Friday’s loss was that Nowitzki was able to find his shooting touch. The 10-time All-Star scored a season-high 30 points on 12 of 17 shooting in 33 minutes and looked strikingly similar to the player who led the Mavs to last year’s NBA title.
“Every day he’s moving better, so at some point this kind of game was going to be a reality and it was great to see, because he was doing everything,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He was shooting the ball, he was driving the ball, rebounding it, and I thought, overall, he was very active.”
Nowitzki, who recently was nursing a sore right knee, hit his first six shots and scored 20 points by halftime. He was so hot that he made a wild circus shot in the fourth quarter even when he was being guarded closely by George.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, George was toting a pretty hot hand himself. George made 11 of 19 shots, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range as the Mavs had difficulties containing him.
At one point in the second quarter George connected on three consecutive 3-pointers as the Pacers went from being down 42-38 to ahead 847-46.
“We played a lot of zone tonight and we lost him a few times on the zone,” Carlisle said of George. “He’s a good 3-point shooter, he made shots and there’s other plays that we made some mistakes on.
“He had a big night and they had a lot of other guys that played well, too.”
The Mavs led 53-52 at intermission, but Indy used a 21-6 rally — Danny Granger and George combined for 15 of those points — to blast ahead 71-59.
Dallas got within 76-72 on a Jason Terry 3-pointer to start the fourth period.
But George made a pair of 3-pointers and stripped Nowitzki and motored in for a layup and an 87-73 lead for the Pacers, who also have won road games in Chicago, Orlando, Boston and at the Los Angeles Lakers.
“They were physical,” Carlisle said. “When we did have shots we were having trouble making them.
“It was a combination of things, but I would give them a lot of credit for the results of the game in terms of the score. They played extremely well, and we didn’t play our best game.”
Because Nowitzki was only 11 of 29 from the field with just 28 points in his previous three games, what he did against the Pacers was a welcome sight for the Mavs.
“This season is ripe with ironies,” Carlisle said. “The thing is we’ve just got to keep moving and we’ve got to keep working to help each other get better.
“There’s going to be some frustrations with games like this. But we’ve just got to keep our eye on the ball. As it goes along, we’ll get better as a basketball team, but the last two games have been tough.”