dirk nowitzki

No matter who or how many San Antonio Spurs were on Dirk Nowitzki, or how much they pushed, prodded or swatted at the 7-foot All-Star, he kept making big plays for the Dallas Mavericks.

“He probably doesn’t get enough credit for being the competitor that he is, and for being so tough-minded,” teammate Lamar Odom said of Nowitzki. “There’s nothing soft about Dirk. He’s tough.”

Nowitzki scored 27 points, fought for loose balls and screamed out in exhilaration several times as the defending NBA champion Mavericks won 106-99 over the Southwest Division-leading Spurs on Saturday night for their third consecutive victory.

After winning at home against Washington and Charlotte, the NBA’s two worst teams, beating San Antonio was much more impressive, even if the Spurs were playing the second consecutive night. Dallas never trailed and the only tie was at 2-all.

“It was a playoff battle. Anytime we see the Spurs it’s a fun game, great atmosphere, both teams really trying to get the win. As expected, it was a physical game,” Nowitzki said. “They went small some, tried to mix it up. At the end they were double-teaming some. I thought as a team, we always made the right play, find the open guy. That was definitely big.”

– Reported by Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press