DALLAS (AP) — With the Dallas Mavericks leading comfortably in the fourth quarter, their fans wanted Dirk Nowitzki on the court one more time, chanting, “We want Dirk! We want Dirk!”
Nowitzki stayed on the bench, but that was the only disappointment Mavs fans endured Monday night.
Justin Jackson scored 24 points, Salah Mejri added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and the Mavericks took advantage of a short-handed Philadelphia 76ers lineup in a 122-102 victory.
Philadelphia, playing without starters Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler, went more than 10 minutes without a field goal spanning the second and third quarters. Dallas took advantage to build a 20-point lead early in the third and protected it from there.
Jackson scored 16 of his 24 in the third quarter, including nine of his team’s final 11, in keeping the Sixers from making a run. Philadelphia got no closer than 11 in the second half.
That led the crowd to call for Nowitzki, who has five games remaining, three at home, in what is expected to be his final season. Team owner Mark Cuban made perhaps the most definitive statement about the 21-year veteran’s future before the game, referring to a pending celebration at the Mavs’ final home game on April 9.
“If you can get here for the last game, you want to be here for the last game in Dallas,” Cuban said. “It’s going to be a special night whether he likes it or wants it or not.”
Nowitzki, who hasn’t announced any decisions about his future, scored seven points in 17 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back. He said he never gave a thought to coming back in despite the crowd’s pleas.
“I shut it down early,” Nowitzki said. “It was a still a nice moment, but I didn’t have it today.”
Nowitzki’s highlight was a 3-pointer that spun around the rim, popped up and then fell through the hoop to give the Mavs a 68-50 halftime lead.
The Sixers missed their final 14 shots spanning the last 8:22 of the first half. Dallas closed the half on a 28-8 run, capped by Nowitzki’s 3.
Playing without Embiid (load management) and Butler (back tightness), Philadelphia leaned heavily on its three other regular starters. J.J. Redick had 26 points, while Tobias Harris added 25 and Ben Simmons 17.
“When they made their big punch at the end of the second quarter, we didn’t punch back,” Harris said.
NEW KID IN TOWN
Jackson, acquired on Feb. 6 from Sacramento, had his highest point total with Dallas. He led a balanced effort as leading scorer Luka Doncic sat out his second straight game with a thigh contusion.
“I am loving Dallas,” Jackson said. “The transition was smooth. The organization has been great. The guys on the team and the coaching staff have been great.”
SALAH’S BIG NIGHT
Mejri made two 3s in a game for the first time in his career and had his first double-double of the season. The 7-foot-2 Mejri looked as comfortable shooting from the outside as his fellow 7-footer Nowitzki, and he credited coach Rick Carlisle with having the confidence to bring him back and refine his game after he was waived earlier in the season.
“(Carlisle) called me after the waiving and he was like, ‘If you want to stay in this league longer, everybody’s shooting now. You’ve got to shoot’.” Mejri said.
PORZINGIS ON THE BENCH
Kristaps Porzingis, who has been accused of raping a woman in New York last year while a member of the Knicks, was dressed in a suit on the Mavericks’ bench. Carlisle said he had called Porzingis on Sunday mentioning that the Mavs were open to giving him time off, but that Porzingis told Carlisle he wanted to be with the team. “From a basketball standpoint, it’s business as usual,” Carlisle said.
76ers: Rookie Zhaire Smith, the 16th pick in the first round of the 2018 draft, made just his second appearance of the season. He played 10 minutes and didn’t score. … Philadelphia, one of the NBA’s best home teams, is just 19-19 on the road. … Redick made 4 of 11 3s, while the rest of the team shot 2 for 22 from behind the arc.
Mavericks: Eleven Mavs played double-digit minutes and six scored in double figures. Dallas won for just the fifth time in its last 22 games. … Cuban said he had nothing to say about Porzingis’ situation, citing that federal authorities had told the team not to comment.
76ers: Visit the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
Mavericks: Host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
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