Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 30 points and the Dallas Mavericks celebrated the final home game of the 40-year-old’s record 21st season with the same franchise in a 120-109 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Nowitzki hasn’t said he’s retiring, but the game-long celebration of his career felt even more like a farewell than all the times he was serenaded by the crowds in opposing arenas once he finally made his debut after missing 26 games recovering from ankle surgery.
The 14-time All-Star had the first eight Dallas shots and scored his team’s first 10 points in the first three minutes and passed his previous season high of 21 on a 3-pointer early in the third quarter.
Dallas’ season finale, and possibly the career-ender for Nowitzki, is Wednesday night in San Antonio. He broke Kobe Bryant’s record of 20 seasons with the Lakers. Bryant retired three years ago.
Jamal Crawford scored 51 points, one off his career high, in the season finale for the Suns (19-63). Phoenix had by far the worst record in the Western Conference in its fourth straight season with at least 58 losses.
Phoenix trailed by 30 at halftime (68-38) but got within four in the fourth quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers from Luka Doncic and Justin Jackson pushed the lead back to 10.
Nowitzki kept shooting on his busiest night of the season, finishing with highs of 31 shots (making 11) and 33 minutes. He was 5 of 14 from 3-point range with eight rebounds.
The highest-scoring foreign-born player in NBA history also tied his season high in assists with three, capped by passing out of a jump shot with the crowd anticipating another bucket and getting Jackson an easy layup.
A sellout crowd followed owner Mark Cuban’s order of filling the arena early, and cheered from the first possible moment for the player who guided the Mavericks to their only championship eight years ago.
Fans stood during warmups, recording him in the layup line on their phones. The 7-foot German obliged with a dunk. Then he had another dunk in the game — his second of the season — in the second half.
The wide smile as he ran down the floor was quite a contrast to the break between the first and second quarters. Nowitzki fought back tears near midcourt with the game about to restart after a tribute video detailing one of his holiday visits to a children’s hospital.
Doncic, the rookie sensation and the heir apparent to Nowitzki, had his eighth triple-double with 21 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The 20-year-old is one triple-double shy of Jason Kidd’s franchise record from 1995-96.
Suns: Crawford was 13 of 16 in the second half and 18 of 30 for the game, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range. … Dragan Bender had 12 points and 11 rebounds. … Josh Jackson scored 17.
Mavericks: Devin Harris, who has played more than half his 14 seasons with Nowitzki, scored 14 points. … Dorian Finney-Smith scored 15.
Suns: Await the NBA draft lottery.
Mavericks: At San Antonio on Wednesday night.