The Mavericks aren't out of the playoff picture just yet, and it's all because of the masterful performance of Dirk. He made 16 of his 26 shot attempts and also had eight rebounds in 39 minutes. A 37-year-old man was taking these young Blazers to the School of Dirk.
It was the 20th time in Dirk's career that he scored at least 40 points in a regular season game, which is another friendly reminder why he's the sixth highest scorer in NBA history. This got me thinking: These games should be ranked. So, that's exactly what we did.
Before going further, please note the following: All playoff games, the two 50-point regular season games and Sunday's Portland game have BEEN EXCLUDED from this list. The 53-point game against the Houston Rockets, the 50-point game in the 2006 Western Conference Finals and then the multiple 40-point games in the 2011 Western Conference Finals, most notably Game 1, would've easily topped the list. This was the best way to narrow it down.
Besides, if you counted playoffs and those 50-point games, Dirk has 27 40-plus games in his career. He's pretty good.
If you're scoring from home, that's 17 games to choose from and we've narrowed them down to the top five.
No. 5: Jan. 15, 2002 - 40 points, 116-107 win at Atlanta
The first such 40-point regular season game of Dirk's career came in his fourth season on a mid-January night in Atlanta. He shot 12-of-22 from the floor, but Dirk decided to camp behind the 3-point line in this game. He took 15 attempts and made six of them. Had he taken some of those 3-point attempts inside the long-range line and made his three missed free throws, Dirk might have had a 50-point game easily. But sine this is the first, it gets precedence. It's unclear whether this was the night Jason Terry decided he wanted no part of playing Dirk and the Mavs anymore, but one can think of it that way.
Speaking of Jet, he scored his career-high 46 points on this night. But it's all about the scoreboard.
No. 4: Nov. 18, 2009 - 41 points, 99-94 OT win vs. San Antonio
This was the year the Mavs were bounced in the first round by the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs in six games, but it was a much different story pre-playoffs and pre-trade for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. Dirk scored 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Mavs over their rivals. He shot 15-of-29 from the floor and missed only two of his 12 free-throw attempts while scoring 11 points in overtime. It was only the second time ever Dirk scored 40 points or more against the Spurs, as he scored 42 in the Game 5 loss to San Antonio in May 2001 which ended the Mavs' season.
No. 3: Dec. 13, 2008 - 46 points, 103-99 win vs. Oklahoma City
We're taking you back to the days of when the Oklahoma City Thunder were a two-win basketball team led by second-year scorer Kevin Durant and rookie point guard Russell Westbrook. Oh, and Jeff Green, too. But the Thunder did not play like a two-win team on this day. Any Maverick not named Nowitzki or Terry shot a combined 11-of-21. Dirk and Jet combined for 74 points and Dirk's 46 came on 17-of-30 shooting. He also made all 10 free throws.
A note on this season in general: Dirk scored 40-plus points four times in the 2008-09 season. This Mavericks team lost to a Carmelo Anthony-less Denver team on Jan. 13, 2009 when Dirk scored 44 points. Less than a month later, Dirk took 34 (THIRTY-FOUR) shots and scored 44 points to beat the Chicago Bulls by one point. And not even three weeks later, the Mavs survived in overtime against the Thunder. Durant played only seven minutes due to injury, and Westbrook took 32 shots to get 33 points. Dirk scored 41 points in the win.
The 2008-09 Mavericks won 50 games, but good lord, they were a dumpster fire outside of Dirk and Terry and it's a miracle they even got to the conference semifinals.
No. 2: Jan. 27, 2004 - 43 points, 118-116 win at Seattle
If there was a night to ever think Dirk would go for 50, it was on this late-January evening against the Sonics that was won at the buzzer by Antoine Walker's fall-away shot from the corner. Of all the 40-point games in Dirk's career, this was his most efficient from a shooting standpoint. He took 22 shots and made 16 of them. That 72.7 percent shooting clip was also aided by a career-high eight 3-pointers out of 11 attempts. And for Dirk to only take five free throws in a game like this seems unworldly. This could arguably be considered the most efficient game of Dirk's career, if you want to factor in the 51-point game in March 2006 against Golden State.
No. 1: Nov. 3, 2009 - 40 points, 96-85 win vs. Utah
Dirk had 11 points heading into the fourth quarter. Do the math.
Dallas trailed 67-52 after three quarters. Dirk was shooting 5-of-14 from the floor to this point. The Jazz were on their way to knocking the Mavs to a 2-2 start. All the stars had to align for this comeback to become a reality. Dirk made seven of his eight shot attempts in the fourth quarter and went 15-of-16 from the line to lead the Mavericks to this improbable victory. Dirk had a double-double of 40 points and 11 rebounds, but perhaps more impressive were his five blocks(!!!) trailing by only one to Erick Dampier's six blocks(!!!!!!). Dirk has had many memorable fourth quarters, but that 29-point fourth quarter in early November 2009 ranks above them all.