Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas Mavericks teammates pledged earlier
this season not to shave until the team returned to the .500
The Mavericks are close to getting their razors ready and will
try to even their record for the first time in 3 1/2 months with
Thursday night’s visit from a surging Indiana Pacers team that’s
approaching full health.
With nine wins in the last 12 contests, Dallas is now within one
game of .500 for the first time since it was 11-11 on Dec. 12. The
Mavericks (35-36) are also making a considerable push for a 13th
consecutive playoff berth, now sitting just 1 1/2 games behind the
eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers after beginning March five games
out of postseason position.
“We’ve been fighting to get to (.500). I feel like we’re playing
our basketball. The boys are playing well and better off each
other,” Nowitzki said. “It’s a good time to play your best
basketball. We’ll see how far we can take it.
“I’m ready to get this (beard) off. It’s a big outing for us
Thursday against a very tough team. That’ll be a big game for
Beating Indiana would give the Mavericks their longest home
winning streak of the season at four. Dallas improved to 3-1 on its
six-game homestand Tuesday with a 109-102 overtime victory against
the Los Angeles Clippers.
Nowitzki had eight of his season-high 33 points in the extra
period, and was among six Dallas players to score in double
“We’ve got to find a way to win those close games. We’ve been
doing a lot better the last two weeks or so,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve
found a decent mixture the last couple of weeks of leadership and
playing well together. Hopefully, we can keep it up.”
The Pacers (45-27) haven’t had David West for the last six games
due to a sprained lower back, but they earned their fifth win in
that stretch Wednesday, 100-91 in Houston, behind Roy Hibbert’s
season-high 28 points and 13 rebounds.
“This was Roy Hibbert’s best overall game,” coach Frank Vogel
said. “And with David West out, we needed him to score more and be
more of a post presence and he was terrific on the offensive end as
Hibbert may not have to do nearly as much Thursday. West is
expected to return against the Mavericks as is Danny Granger, who
has missed all but five games this season but should be available
to come off the bench down the stretch.
West had 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting and Paul George scored 30
in the most recent visit to Dallas, a 98-87 win on Feb. 3, 2012.
The victory snapped the Pacers’ seven-game skid at the American
Nowitzki had 30 points in the loss and is averaging 27.4 over
his last 14 matchups with Indiana, his best performance against any
opponent since the beginning of the 2004-05 season. He didn’t
played in the Pacers’ 103-83 win on Nov. 16 in Indianapolis.
Lance Stephenson was one of six Pacers in double figures in that
contest, finishing with 12, and he had a season-high 21 points
Wednesday after missing a game with a strained hip flexor.
The win in Houston kept Indiana five games ahead of Chicago in
the Central Division and tied with New York for the second seed in
the Eastern Conference.