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Dirk Nowitzki hits milestone as Dallas Mavericks defeat Philadelphia 76ers

By Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange
Dirk Nowitzki hits milestone as Dallas Mavericks defeat Philadelphia 76ers
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

DALLAS -- In a game where power forward Dirk Nowitzki hit another milestone in what is a Hall of Fame career, the bigger picture wasn't lost for the Dallas Mavericks.

A recent slide has put their playoff position in jeopardy, so ripping through the lowly Philadelphia 76ers 129-103 Sunday night at American Airlines Center was a welcome sight.

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"This is an important win for us," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "Stopped the bleeding."

Dallas (30-27) posted its highest point total and enjoyed its largest margin of victory of the season.

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Nowitzki eclipsed the 29,000-career point plateau with a 3-pointer early in the third quarter. The league's sixth all-time leader scorer needed 10 points coming into the game and ended up with 18, hitting five from beyond the arc.

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"It's another amazing achievement in just an amazing career," Carlisle said. "I don't know if we'll really be able to put all of this in perspective until he's gone and we see how different it's going to be."

Nowitzki's night overshadowed a special performance from Philadelphia rookie center Jahlil Okafor. The third pick in last summer's draft scored a career-best 31 on 12-of-19 shooting and added eight rebounds.

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"My teammates were getting me the ball in good position to score," Okafor said. "They kept telling me to be aggressive."

Dallas opened a season-high, six-game homestand with only its second win in seven games. This stretch, which includes nine of 10 at home, should go a long way to determining the Mavs' playoff chances.

The recent struggles have dropped Dallas to near the bottom of the tight Western Conference postseason race. Beating the Sixers was especially important with Oklahoma City up next.

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"We really needed this win," Carlisle said. "We've got a tough week. We've got one of the best teams in the league coming here Wednesday, and we've got a lot going on."

Such as the impending signing of power forward David Lee, which Carlisle said should happen Monday. Bought out Friday by Boston, Lee met with his future teammates in the locker room after the game and is expected to be in the lineup against the Thunder.

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The playoffs have long been an afterthought for the 8-47 Sixers, but the league's worst team has been considerably more competitive since a 1-30 start.

The frontcourt combo of Okafor and power forward Nerlens Noel, plus the addition point guard Ish Smith, have led to a measure of optimism that the long rebuilding process is finally on the right track.

That certainly appeared to be the case early against Dallas, as Okafor was unstoppable in the first quarter on his way to 18 points and a 30-28 Philadelphia lead.

The Mavs reversed course in the second period and took a 66-54 advantage into the locker room. It was the most points for Dallas in a half this season.

The Mavericks continued to roll in the second half and were able to empty the bench in the fourth quarter as the lead surpassed 20.

"Our problem was defense for sure," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "We're trying to grow Jahlil to guard fours. To try to find Dirk and keep Nerlens at the rim, and that is still a challenge when you play against a team that is so well-coached offensively especially. They pick you apart and we chased the whole night."

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Dallas shooting guard Wesley Matthews had a team-high 21 points. Point guard Deron Williams had 15 points and eight assists, with small forward Chandler Parsons also scoring 15.

Small forward Robert Covington scored 14 in Philadelphia's fourth straight loss. Noel had only four points and five boards in 19 minutes, while Smith had three points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Philadelphia returns home Tuesday to face the Orlando Magic.

NOTES: The Mavs are waiving G John Jenkins to make room for Lee. ... The three-team trade last week in which the 76ers picked up C Joel Anthony is on hold because PF Donatas Motiejunas, going from Houston to Detroit, hasn't been cleared to play due to back issues. The teams agreed on an extension through Monday to complete the deal. Philadelphia also gets a second-round pick if the trade goes through. ... The Mavericks recalled F Jeremy Evans and G Justin Anderson from the D-League Texas Legends.

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