Nowitzki's 53 Overshadows LeBron-Carmelo

Friday, December 3rd 2004, 6:48 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Dirk Nowitzki scored 53 points _ the most ever by a Dallas player and tops in the NBA this season _ and was just as dominant in other parts of his game, carrying the Mavericks past the Houston Rockets 113-106 in overtime Thursday night.

Nowitzki scored 43 in regulation, then opened overtime with a 10-0 run. It featured a tough three-point play when he was fouled by Tracy McGrady _ who had 48 points _ on a layup, and a high-arcing 3-pointer that drew the biggest roar of the night and forced the Rockets to call a time out. Nowitzki celebrated by pointing up with his index finger and soaking in the cheers.

Their one-on-one duel overshadowed the expecting battle of young stars later in the night, Cleveland's LeBron James vs. Denver's Carmelo Anthony. To a national cable television audience, Dallas-Houston was just supposed to be the warmup act, but viewers might as well have gone to sleep early because this one deserved to be savored _ in contrast to Cleveland's 92-73 victory in Denver.

As exciting as Nowitzki's baskets were, he was equally impressive on defense, stripping Jim Jackson on a drive when it was 97-93 then knocking a ball away from McGrady on Houston's next possession. He was active all night, as evidenced by his season highs for rebounds (16) and blocks (four).

Yet the Mavericks still had to sweat this one out.

McGrady, who missed a free throw with 27.1 seconds left that would have put Houston ahead, hit a 3-pointer with 1:03 left in overtime that made it 108-104. A layup by Jackson with 20.4 got Houston back within four, but the Rockets couldn't get any close in losing their fifth straight.

McGrady finished with a season-high 48. Jackson scored 17, and Yao Ming had 13 points and a season-high 14 rebounds before fouling out with 53 seconds left.

When time expired, McGrady waited for Nowitzki near midcourt. They slapped hands and hugged, with Nowitzki cracking a sly smile. Nowitzki finished 15-of-32, and was 21-of-22 from the line.

He topped his season high of 32 early in the fourth, then passed his career high of 42 and matched the NBA season-high of 43 by Cleveland's James on the free throws that came when Yao fouled out. He matched the franchise record of 50 _ held by Jackson and Jamal Mashburn _ on two more foul shots soon after he stole the ball from Jackson.

The way Nowitzki dominated shows he's still improving his game, even without close friend Steve Nash getting him the ball. The point guard left for Phoenix in the offseason, but Nowitzki nonetheless came in averaging 25.5 points, fourth-best in the league.

He opened by not only hitting his first four shots, but making two of them immediately after snatching rebounds on the other end. He looked then as if he was ready for a huge game, yet missed eight of his next nine shots.

His tenacity showed again in the third quarter when Nowitzki grabbed a rebound and took off. He tried a long pass, but it hit the backboard, bounced off several players _ and he chased it down. Although he missed his shot, the Rockets had to think he was everywhere.

It seemed that way again when Nowitzki scored the first nine points of the fourth, then assisted on the next basket. Houston called timeout, only to be haunted by No. 41 again by Dallas cheerleaders dancing in front of their bench wearing rhinestone-studded Nowitzki jerseys. Then he scored the Mavericks' next basket.

But Dallas, which had lost three of five, couldn't hold a five-point lead with 4:51 left.

A 3-pointer by McGrady put Houston up 90-89, the first of five lead changes in the final 1:54 of regulation.

After McGrady missed the potential winning free throw, Nowitzki tapped the rebound to Daniels. Nowitzki got the ball on offense, but gave it to Jerry Stackhouse, who put up a wild shot that barely drew iron. It made him just 3-of-11 and the ball went out of bounds to the Rockets.

Their last play started with McGrady, but he passed to Bob Sura once double-teamed. Sura missed at the buzzer.

The only solace for Houston was being competitive after getting routed by 21 at home to Detroit the previous game. The Rockets also had a season-high 41 field goals; their skid of three straight games under 30 had ended after three quarters.

Marquis Daniels and Jason Terry scored 14 for Dallas, which ended a skid of six games scoring under 100.

Cavaliers 92, Nuggets 73

At Denver, James had 17 points, eight rebounds and nine assists to help Cleveland embarrass Anthony and Denver in front of a booing crowd at the Pepsi Center.

Anthony missed seven of his first eight shots en route to a 14-point night. He finished 6-for-20 and had five turnovers.