Worst to First

Dirk Nowitzki rebounded from his worst game of the season to the best playoff performance in Dallas Mavericks history. In case you were too anxious about UTA's chances of upsetting Texas in the NCAA baseball playoffs or about Terrell Owens' debut as a Dallas Cowboy in this weekend's mini-camp, the Giant German hung half a hundred on the Suns Thursday night in one of the most remarkable individual games in metroplex sports history. Dirk's 50, when his team desperately needed it, is the equivalent of a Mike Modano scoring four goals in a Stanley Cup game or Owens catching five touchdown passes in the Super Bowl. Yeah, it's that rare.

In a second half--33 points, 9-of-13 from the floor, 3-of-3 from 3-point range, 12-of-12 from the free-throw line, eight rebounds--that will surely go down as one of the greatest in NBA playoff history, Dirk not only willed his team to victory in Game 5, he pushed the Mavs within 48 minutes of the NBA Finals, the closest they've been since 1988. Not only that--and, yeah, we're getting ahead of ourselves--but if the Mavs close out the Suns in Saturday's Game 6 or Monday's Game 7 and the Miami Heat finish off the Detroit Pistons, Dallas will have home-court advantage in the finals against a Heat team it destroyed at the American Airlines Center back in February. So, thanks to Dirk, get your parade maps out. --Richie Whitt

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