Nowitzki to nudge Mavs back into mix vs. OKC?

Nowitzki to nudge Mavs back into mix vs. OKC?

Dirk Nowitzki’s accomplished a great many things over the course of his lengthy NBA career. At age 37, though, can the power forward still carry a team to victory?

The Mavericks desperately need an answer in the affirmative tonight. On the verge of falling into an all-but-insurmountable hole, Rick Carlisle’s crew hosts Oklahoma City at 8 p.m. ET. Online sports book BetDSI likes the visiting squad as a 9-point favorite.

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Handicappers’ faith in the third-seeded Thunder makes sense. With the one-two punch of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combining for 60 points, Oklahoma City overpowered injury-riddled Dallas on Thursday. The 131-102 road rout also gave Billy Donovan’s group a 2-1 series edge.

Such questionable defense has compromised the Mavs throughout 2015-16. Now, however, Carlisle can’t even depend on his preferred personnel. Guard Deron Williams remains doubtful for Game 4 on account of a sports hernia. Valuable role players David Lee and J.J. Barea just returned from different ailments, but their minutes are likely to be limited.

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That leaves a ton of pressure on Nowitzki, who’s grinding through a right knee bruise himself. The seven-footer dropped at least 16 points in each of the first three contests. This evening, though, he must receive offensive assistance from either Barea or swingman Wesley Matthews (22 points) two nights ago.

At the same time, that doesn’t solve the Mavericks’ issues on the other end of the floor. Westbrook and Durant delight in pushing the pace, and Dallas simply doesn’t possess the horses to race alongside the tenacious twosome. Despite Nowitzki’s best efforts, matters won’t look bright heading back to Chesapeake Energy Arena.

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