MINNEAPOLIS — Before his team took the floor against the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota coach Sam Mitchell was asked about Dirk Nowitzki’s ability to still carry his team after 17 NBA seasons.
Mitchell praised Nowitzki’s experience and ability to "get it done" — then the 37-year-old forward proved it against the inexperienced Timberwolves.
Nowitzki scored 29 points, converted a big three-point play and grabbed a key loose ball in the final seconds to lead the Mavericks over the skidding Wolves 93-87 on Sunday.
"Classic Dirk," teammate Deron Williams said. "Hitting shots from everywhere, making big shots, big plays. That’s why he’s one of the greatest."
The rest of the Mavericks didn't make it easy for coach Rick Carlisle to give Nowitzki more rest against a team with one of the NBA's worst records. The normally dynamic starting backcourt of Wesley Matthews and Williams shot a combined 3 for 18; they came in averaging 14.5 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.
"One of the things we want to do is take some of the burden off of him. But there's nights like tonight where it's unavoidable," Carlisle said.
After attempting 44 3-pointers Friday at Milwaukee, the Mavericks -- one of the league leaders in 3-point attempts -- tried 20 against the Timberwolves. Nowitzki had four of Dallas' six 3s.
"In the end, they were playing some small ball and we had some matchups up there," said Nowitzki, who has scored 20 points in four of his last five games. "The guys kept coming to me, and I thought defensively it was a good effort today."
The Timberwolves, who have dropped six straight and 10 of 11, didn't get much production from the perimeter; they hit only four of 16 attempts from behind the arc.
Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota with 21 points, and Shabazz Muhammad added 16 off the bench. Wiggins helped the Timberwolves close within five a couple of times late, but Nowitzki was fouled on a mid-range jumper with 1:30 left and hit the ensuing free throw. Ricky Rubio then missed a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left and Nowitzki grabbed the loose ball.
"A lot of people take these old guys for granted," 16-year veteran Andre Miller said. "As long as they can run up and down the court, it don't matter how fast you're moving, or how young or old you are. If you can put the ball in the basket and make your teammates better, there's a place for you in this league."
The Mavericks have won three of four.
Kevin Garnett is averaging 15 minutes per game but has played only 7 in each of Minnesota's last two games. Mitchell said Garnett is hurting, but didn't offer specifics. "When I limit his minutes like this it is because of a conversion he and I had, and he's telling me how he's feeling," Mitchell said.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Zaza Pachulia continues to prove he wasn't a bad consolation prize in the wake of last summer's DeAndre Jordan saga. Acquired from Milwaukee for a future second-round pick, Pachulia had 13 points and 11 rebounds Sunday for his 19th double-double of the season. "We got him for a Gatorade cooler and he's been phenomenal for us," Nowitzki said.
Mavericks: Carlisle, the NBA coaches' association president, said he expects dismissed Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins to land on his feet. "You never like to see guys get let go, especially a situation like theirs, which is, there is a lot of upheaval with roster, injuries, all kinds of other things. So I'm disappointed, very disappointed, but these things happen." ... Dallas is 20-0 when leading after three quarters. ... Williams played 29 minutes after hurting his shooting elbow Friday against the Bucks. He wouldn't blame the elbow for his 2-for-10 shooting performance. "Just an off night," he said.
Timberwolves: A driving Miller took a hard spill early in the fourth quarter after being fouled by JaVale McGee. Miller stayed down for a few minutes while being attended to by team trainers, but ultimately stayed in the game and made the ensuing free throw to complete the three-point play. ... Karl-Anthony Towns got into early foul trouble and didn't attempt his first shot until there was 2:58 left in the first half. He finished with 10 points. ... Ricky Rubio had 12 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. It was Rubio's 16th game this season with three steals, tying Toronto's Kyle Lowry for most in the NBA.
Mavericks: Host Cleveland on Tuesday.
Timberwolves: Host Oklahoma City on Tuesday.