There may come a point in this life where Dirk Nowitzki is no longer is the Mavericks' most reliable crunch time scorer. The time may come where Dirk doesn't nail crucial four-point plays in overtime or fall back on old-school post moves when a smaller man switches onto him, coming alive no matter how rough his first three quarters were. But if you watched Dirk score 21 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and overtime on Monday in a win against the Boston Celtics, it also seems entirely possible that those moments will never come.
Dirk isn't immortal, but at 37, he's doing a damned good impersonation. Through 36 minutes of Monday's game, Dirk had only 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting and three turnovers. By the fourth, Dirk took over, tying a season high in points scored by going 5-of-9 in the final 17 minutes, plus 9-of-9 at the line. He credited a pull-up jumper early in the fourth for getting him on track -- "that's what I needed," he said, "I needed a shot to go in, I needed a shot to go through the net. It was better after that."
Dirk's been wildly clutch his entire career and this season is nothing different, scoring 88 points in clutch situations -- points that come with the score within five points in the final five minutes of a game, as defined by NBA.com's stats page. Those 88 points are fifth-best in the NBA, behind Reggie Jackson, James Harden, Isaiah Thomas and Jimmy Butler but just ahead of LeBron James.
Even better, Dirk's plus-minus in crunch time leads the entirety of the NBA. That's right, Nowitzki is plus-78 when he steps on the floor when the game matters. To be fair, some of that comes thanks to Rick Carlisle, who frequently subs Dirk out for defensive substitutions before reinserting him on offense. And again to be fair, Dirk is helped by his own team, which has a knack for finding themselves in close games all season, much more frequently than, say, the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs.
But regardless: Dirk still reigns king. ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon wrote a bit longer about the crunch time heroics of the big German, which is worth reading. It hardly even needs to be said, but enjoy this Dirk Nowitzki continuing to lead Dallas to wins -- just in case he is, in fact, mortal.