A future without Dirk

All the sports pundits are saying that Dirk Nowitzki will retire this year after 117, or however many seasons, he’s played. Mind you, Dirk has made no announcement to that effect, and this afternoon he actually started. The Mavericks aren’t playoff-bound this year, so it’s not like they need to rest the “regular” starters; I’m thinking this is just a case of Dirk wanting to go out on top. And while he didn’t shoot the way he used to — 2 for 10, seven points — he reeled in 13 rebounds, and for the sheer hell of it, he blocked a shot. So you can say what you will about Trey Burke and Devin Harris, who gathered 40 of the Mavs’ 57 reserve points, or Jalen Brunson, who led the starters with 18, or super-rookie Luka Doncić, who didn’t play due to an injury, or even Ryan Broekhoff, who sank the last two free throws with four seconds left. This one — Dallas 106, Oklahoma City 103 — belongs to Dirk.

Of course, had the Thunder been playing with any consistency, they’d have gotten this game for themselves. Didn’t happen. Even with two triple-doubles — Paul George, 27-11, and Steven Adams, 20-15 — and yet another triple-double from Russell Westbrook (25-11-11), it wasn’t going to happen. In the last 20 seconds, Dennis Schröder got two three-point looks from the corner, and neither of them fell. But it wasn’t just Schröder; in 48 minutes the Thunder put up 43 treys, and connected on only eleven. Also, they let the Mavs outrebound them 52-49. (See “Dirk,” supra.) If nothing else, this solidified OKC’s hold on #8 in the West, the Kings having been eliminated last night, which means for the rest of the season I have to root for Golden State, because I’d rather play them in the first round than Denver.

The LeBron-less Lakers arrive Tuesday, the Pistons on Friday. The Lakers aren’t going anywhere, but Detroit has work to do: the first five slots in the East are filled, and the Pistons are sixth — but there are five teams within reach of the last three slots. After that, a trip to the Twin Cities, where the Timberwolves will likely have their way once more.

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