It took all of 15 seconds for the Utah Jazz to know they’d have their hands full.
After the Dallas Mavericks won the opening tipoff Wednesday night, Dirk Nowitzki took a pass into the left block. There, with Marvin Williams on his back, the 12-time all-star spun and hit a one-legged fadeaway jumper to open the game, pushing himself past John Havlicek and into 12th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Then the 35-year-old Nowitzki went to work on No. 11.
Nowitzki hit 12 of his 14 attempts from the floor Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena, torching the Jazz for 31 points in a 108-101 Dallas victory.
“Dirk, in my opinion, was spectacular,” said Jazz coach Ty Corbin.
“You just got to take your hat off for him,” said rookie Trey Burke.
“He’s a legend, man,” said Utah swingman Gordon Hayward.
If the first bucket wasn’t omen enough, by the time Nowitzki hit his second, working the pick and roll with Monta Ellis and catching a pass for a wide open look at the free throw line extended, Hayward sensed trouble.
“It’s a long night when he starts hitting those shots,” he said. “ … We let Dirk get off three or four wide open looks early in the game and that probably got him rolling a little bit. Especially against a veteran team, when you let them start to feel good, you know it’s going to be a long night for you.”
The loss was Utah’s seventh in its last eight games, dropping the Jazz into a tie with the Boston Celtics, ahead of only the Milwaukee Bucks, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic, with a month remaining in the season.
Still, the Jazz flashed some signs of life in Wednesday’s defeat.
With forward Derrick Favors in early foul trouble, Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 11 of his 18 points in the second quarter, keeping the Jazz within two at the half. Kanter also finished with 11 rebounds, good for his 15th double-double.
Burke, who came alive in the second half of Monday’s loss to Atlanta, continued his run into Wednesday’s game, scoring 20 points for a second game in a row, and dishing six assists without committing a turnover.
In a game that featured 18 lead changes and 17 ties, the Jazz and Mavericks were knotted up at 85 after a Jeremy Evans slam dunk with 8:51 to play in the fourth quarter.
But a Nowitzki 3 on the next possession put Dallas up for good.
With just under four minutes to play and the Jazz down 2, Favors forced Dallas’ Samuel Dalembert into a missed layup and the Jazz took off running. Forward Richard Jefferson kicked the ball out to Burks, trailing the play, and the backup guard fired a 3-pointer that wouldn’t fall.
Dallas guard Monta Ellis’ attempt on the other end would, putting Dallas up five.
“It’s deflating. The ball just didn’t go our way. Alec had a wide open shot that he usually makes,” Burke said, shooting a grin and a look at Burks in the locker room. “He knows he needs to make that next time.”
Three-point shooting was indeed the difference Wednesday, with Dallas converting on 13 of its 21 attempts from beyond the arc and Utah hitting only five of 26.
“Even though they were hitting shots and Dirk had a big night, we still had a chance to win the game,” said Hayward, who had eight points, six rebounds and six assists, but sat on the bench during a critical stretch late in the fourth quarter altering missing a pair of open 3s. “The opportunity was there. We just didn’t execute, didn’t hit shots at the end of the game.”
The Mavericks would go on a run over the next two minutes, going up 10 points on another Nowitzki 3-pointer, this one made as he fell to the ground begging for a foul to be called.
Nowitzki now has 26,426 — 242 behind No. 11 on the list, Atlanta Hawks great Dominique Wilkins.
Mavs, Jazz players hit milestones
• Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki scores 31 points on 12-of-14 shooting to move into 12th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He now has 26,426 in his career.
• With 20 points on Wednesday, Trey Burke became the first Jazz rookie since Karl Malone to score 20-plus points in 10 or more games in his rookie season.
• Alec Burks had a career-high eight assists. His previous high was seven.