Basketball

Mavs fall to Pacers despite Dirk’s heroics

DALLAS, Texas — Dirk Nowitzki got off to a hot start, but it was not enough as the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks faded in the second half en route to a 98-87 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Germany’s Nowitzki, who has struggled in this lockout-shortened season, had a season-high 30 points.

But the Mavericks failed to score on nine of their first 12 possessions of the second half, with Nowitzki saying the team felt the absence of injured point guard Jason Kidd.

“Without Kidd out there directing the ball, it’s hard,” said Nowitzki, who took just two shots in the third quarter.

“And then finally in the fourth quarter I just ran to the ball, wherever it was, just basically (said), ‘Give it to me.’ I just decided to run to the ball every time down.”

Kidd could return as early as Wednesday, when the Mavericks play at Denver. He has been sidelined with a right calf strain but said before the game “I feel a lot better.”

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he did not yet know when Kidd would return.

“No one said he’s going to be back for the Denver game,” Carlisle said. “It’s possible, but there’s no timetable for his return… He’s getting closer, but he’s not close yet.”

Despite the defeat, Carlisle was encouraged by Nowitzki’s performance.

“Every day he’s moving better, so at some point this kind of game was going to be a reality and it was great to see, because he was doing everything,” Carlisle said.

“He was shooting the ball, he was driving the ball, rebounding it, and I thought, overall, he was very active.”

That was not enough to stop the Pacers, however.

Paul George scored a career-high 30 points for Indiana, making 11 of 19 shots including seven of 11 from three-point range.

“He had a big night and they had a lot of other guys that played well, too,” Carlisle said.

The defeat came on the same day that Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Carlisle were fined by the NBA.

Cuban was fined $75,000 for criticizing the referees after a 95-86 loss to Oklahoma City. Carlisle was docked $35,000 for kicking a basketball into the stands at that game.

“I think it’s fair,” Carlisle said. “If you’re responsible for a ball going into the stands you’re subject to a fine. I accept it and regret that situation happened — even though it was accidently — and I’ve got to move forward.”

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