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Dirk: The Big Germane

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I could come in here and pour my glass-half-empty pessimism on you. Tell you how the Mavs’ 111-86 victory last night came against a team playing its fourth game in five nights. Remind you that, with weekend road games at the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns, a two-game losing streak could very well be looming. Or warn you that, even if the victory over the Golden State Warriors propels Dallas into the playoffs, a team with a losing road record (the Mavs are 16-21) hasn’t won an NBA title in 30 years.

But after a Dirk Nowitzki performance that was gutty, inspirational, pertinent and fitting, let me not pee in your Cheerios. The fact that Dirk was on the court only 11 days after what initially looked like a leg injury so serious they’d have to Barbaro him right on the spot is in itself amazing. That he, despite little lift and zero lateral movement, contributed 18 points in 27 minutes is mind-boggling. The Mavs could lose every game from here on out, and Dirk can go 0-for-100, but let us never ever never again call him “soft.”

“If it was November, I wouldn’t have been out there,” Dirk said after the game.

After a month of puzzling losses, this was the biggest win of the season. Inspired by Dirk, Deaven George re-surfaced, and Eddie Jones was reincarnated as a contributor. Josh Howard was all over the court, Jason Kidd pushed the pace, and Jason Terry stroked jumpers. It was the first time -- at least against a winning team -- the Mavs looked like the Mavs that owner Mark Cuban and coach Avery Johnson envisioned when they traded half the team and all the future for Kidd.

Because of the implications, it was like winning a triple-header. The seventh-place Mavs now have a two-game lead and the season series tiebreaker over the Warriors, meaning a three-game lead with seven games to play.

It’s a shame this season has deteriorated into panicked jockeying just to get into the playoffs. But, backed into their first do-or-die corner, the Mavs used Dirk’s resurrection to keep hope alive. --Richie Whitt

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