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Nowitzki nears milestone as Mavs host Lakers

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki's countdown to 30,000 career points is into the final lap, with the future Hall of Famer needing to score just 20 to reach a mountain only scaled by five others in NBA history.

Considering he is averaging about 22 points per game over a 19-year career, the face of the Dallas Mavericks may well ring up 30K on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. Barring the unexpected, the milestone is coming at home for Nowitzki, with the Los Angeles Lakers up next as the third opponent in a five-game homestand.

While much of the media talk naturally is centering around Nowitzki, the team is trying to keep it low key. Coach Rick Carlisle declined Monday to discuss Nowitzki hitting 30,000 until after it happens.

Still, the topic is unavoidable.

"We haven't talked about it much, but guys know," Dallas guard Seth Curry said. "Guys know where he's at, and we want to help him get there."

Nowitzki would become just the third player in league history to score 30,000 points with one franchise, joining Karl Malone (Utah Jazz) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Malone (36,928), Bryant (33,643), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) are the only players in NBA history with more career points than Nowitzki.

Julius Erving scored a combined 30,026 points between the NBA and the ABA.

"I wanna play within the system," Nowitzki said. "I just don't want to hoist shots to get it. I want to play a smart game and help the team win. We're still chasing a playoff spot, and wins right now are more important. Whenever it happens, it happens."

The Mavs would rather put the focus on the game at hand and their renewed playoff push. Dallas (26-36) is 2 1/2 games out of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff position after the Nuggets defeated the Kings 108-96 Monday.

The Mavericks beat two playoff-caliber teams to open the homestand, including pasting the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-89 Sunday night.

Dallas shot nearly 63 percent in the first half and rolled to a 23-point lead in the third quarter. Curry scored 22, Harrison Barnes had 17 points and Nerlens Noel added 13 off the bench.

"Offensively, we felt like we had a good groove," said Nowitzki, who scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. "We set pick-and-rolls and spread the floor well. Our guards got in the lane and made some stuff happen, and I thought that was really good."

Curry has been on a tear, averaging 23.3 points since the All-Star break. Dallas is 15-9 since he became a regular starter.

"I feel like it's contagious right now," Curry said. "Everybody's getting a chance to show what they can do and have a fun time playing basketball, so we're just trying to keep this run going and most importantly win ballgames during this home stretch and have a chance to make the playoffs."

The postseason is not in the cards for the Lakers, who are 19-44 and on a seven-game losing streak. An eighth straight loss would match a season high.

The latest setback was 105-97 to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday at Staples Center. The Lakers rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie it with two minutes left, only to falter.

Nick Young (19 points), Brandon Ingram (16), D'Angelo Russell (16) led the late rally that at least gave the Lakers a shot.

"I thought that they did a great job of giving themselves a chance at fighting back into the game," coach Luke Walton said. "But we made some crucial mistakes in the last minute or so."

Dallas owns a 13-game winning streak against the Lakers.

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