Everyone anticipated that the Los Angeles Lakers would struggle without Anthony Davis. Together with LeBron James, Davis was driving the team back into the Western Conference playoff picture this NBA season by performing at an MVP level. James has improved his performance while Davis is out, but it hasn’t resulted in a victory for the team.
On Christmas Day, the Lakers went on the road to play the Dallas Mavericks and dropped their fourth straight contest. The Mavericks had an awful third quarter in Los Angeles, scoring 21 points after setting an NBA Christmas Day record with 51 points. The scoring explosion was unexpected because the Mavericks had only scored 43 points in the first half.
Dallas ultimately prevailed 124–115, and the Lakers wasted yet another strong showing from James. He finished with a game-high 38 points while shooting 13 of 23 from the field and going 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. James collected six rebounds and five assists while shooting a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe.
Los Angeles scored +2 points in the 34 minutes that James was on the court, outscoring them by 11 points in the 14 minutes he was off the court. Since the Lakers lack the talent to compete with most teams without James on the floor, losing without Davis will be expected.
James provided some analysis following the game, praising the adjustments the Mavericks made as a reason they could take control of the game in the third quarter. In that quarter, several of the shots they had missed in the first half started to fall, starting an avalanche that Los Angeles was powerless to stop.
But he remarked regarding Dirk Nowitzki’s statue being unveiled ahead of the game that is receiving the most attention. A figure of Nowitzki’s signature one-leg, fadeaway jumper, which James had seen frequently throughout his career, was created to honor him.
“First of all, before the statue’s [unveiling] was revealed, I already knew what the statue would look like. A fadeaway on one leg was required. It was necessary, there is no doubt. Dirk is renowned; He is a legend. He is the best international athlete ever to play. He is standing next to Manu Ginobili. That youngster was chilly, man; what he brought here and to the city.”
“Dirk felt chilly. He transformed the appearance of a stretch four huge. In his younger years, he would finish above the hoop and put the ball on the floor. As his career progressed over a few years, he just mastered that in-between game. He began taking it out to the three-point line after that. He was too massive for a little, so that you couldn’t fit him. He was too quick with his initial step early on, so you had to put a steady pace on him. Because he fired it behind his head, much like Larry Bird, you could never block it.
“Dirk, you can discuss the greatest power forwards and players who have ever played that position. He was on par with players like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kevin McHale, and [Charles] Barkley. They’re hardy. Dirk was a fighter. When someone has only one name, you can tell he is challenging. Without a doubt, Dirk was tough.”
Nowitzki played for the Mavericks for the entirety of his 20-year career, which will undoubtedly culminate with induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He won the NBA Finals in 2011, winning the NBA Finals MVP award. He was a 14-time All-Star, a member of the All-NBA Team twelve times, and the MVP of the 2006–07 season.
Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks defeated James and the Miami Heat in six games in the NBA Finals. Regarded as one of the most legendary power forwards in NBA history, Dirk Nowitzki contributed to the game’s progression for big men and international players. Today, you can still spot traces of his trademark move in players’ repertoires.