The Mavericks continued to prove that they're indeed the best team in the league as they improved their road record to a franchise-best start of 10-1 with a 105-99 victory last night in Orlando. Caron Butler led Dallas with 20 points and 4-for-6 shooting from three-point range, and Tyson Chandler added 16 points while hitting all seven of his shots. The Mavs are now 16-1 in their last 17 games.
A Chandler dunk with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter gave Dallas a 91-80 lead and put the game of reach for the Magic. "He'll stuff that Christmas present down the chimney!" said Mavs announcer Mark Followill. Chandler was hit in the head by Dwight Howard's forearm on the play, but no foul was called.
Dirk Nowitzki struggled from the field with just four baskets in 13 tries, but he passed Celtics legend Larry Bird for 25th on the NBA's all-time scoring list in the fourth quarter, drilling a three-pointer to bring his career total to 21,792 points.
"Dirk is as great a player as there is in this league right now," Rick Carlisle said after the game.
The Mavericks overcame a dominating performance by Howard, who scored 26 points and grabbed an impressive 23 rebounds (eight of which were offensive), along with a late run by Orlando that closed the gap to 97-94 after a Jason Richardson three-pointer with 57 seconds on the clock. Richardson, recently acquired with Hedo Turkoglu from the Phoenix Suns in a trade involving Vince Carter, was held to just 4-for-13 from the field. Gilbert Arenas, another recent addition to the Magic, scored just two points on six shots.
"That's a stocking stuffer right there, baby!" Followill said about sweeping the Florida road trip.
Dallas may get a break in its schedule with its next game not until Monday, but the match-up is no break as the team faces the 20-9 Oklahoma City Thunder on the road. The Mavs defeated the Thunder 111-103 in Oklahoma City on November 24. After they face the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday at home, San Antonio comes to Dallas on Thursday.
The Mavericks don't play the two-time defending-champion Lakers for the first time this season until January 19 in Dallas. Los Angeles lost 98-79 last night to the Milwaukee Bucks, who are the only team to beat Dallas in its last 17 games. The Mavs squandered a 20-point halftime lead and were upended 103-99 on December 13.
Up next on the all-time scoring list for Nowitzki are Gary Payton and Clyde Drexler. And if you're wondering how close he is to the top five scorers, it's gonna be a long time -- if ever -- before we see him in that club.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 38,387
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2. Karl Malone: 36,928
3. Michael Jordan: 32,292
4. Wilt Chamberlain: 31,419
5. Shaquille O'Neal: 28,445