Knowing whereof he speaks, Timberwolves veteran Andre Miller had this to say after he watched Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki again turn back the clock with Sunday’s 29-point performance that was good enough for a 93-87 Mavericks victory at Target Center.
“A lot of people take these old guys for granted,” said Miller, a 39-year-old commenting on a mere 37-year-old. “As long as they run up and down the court, it doesn’t matter how fast you move or how young or old you are. If you can put the ball in the basket and make your teammates better, there’s a place for you in this league. You see it with San Antonio, you see it with Dallas. You see it with some of the teams that have older veterans who continue to play at a high level.
“Time is changing, but he’s definitely a Hall of Famer who has proven it every night.”
Nowitzki has proven it to the tune of sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, at 28,734 points. The 13-time All-Star made four of Dallas’ six three-pointers Sunday.
“He’s a guy that has prepared himself for greatness virtually every night,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki, in his 18th season with Dallas. “We want to take some of the burden off him, but there are nights like tonight when it’s unavoidable.”
While Nowitzki played nearly 32 minutes, fellow future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett played fewer than eight minutes for the second consecutive Wolves game because of a 39-year-old body that’s hurting.
“I’m not stupid. If I play him for seven minutes, it’s for a reason,” Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said. “I’m not going to not play a guy who brings so much to the table, especially defensively. KG and I talk every day. I know exactly how he feels. When I limit his minutes, it’s because he’s telling me how he’s feeling.”
• Wolves rookie Nemanja Bjelica played the game’s final 13 minutes and made both three-pointers he attempted. It was Bjelica’s first game with at least two threes made since Dec. 7. He had six such games in the season’s first month.
• The biggest Vikings fan at Sunday’s game might have been Dallas guard Wes Matthews. He grew up in Milwaukee but unabashedly donned a purple Vikings stocking cap while watching Sunday’s finish in his team’s locker room. “Unbelievable,” he said with exasperation when Blair Walsh missed the winning 27-yard field goal.
• Former Wolves guard J.J. Barea sought out Wolves assistant coach Ryan Saunders Sunday and offered his condolences on the October death of Ryan’s father. “Flip was awesome,” Barea said. “I only had a short period with him, but the way he treated me was awesome, even the way it ended with me leaving. He was still a class act, all the way through.”
• Miller went down hard early in the fourth quarter, hitting his head on the floor in the process. Worried teammates went to the court’s opposite end to check on him. After a delay, he walked to the bench on his own for a timeout and stayed in the game. “Just hit my head,” he said. “It was a stinger, but more biting my tongue. It stung a little bit, but that’s about it.”