Pro Basketball

Nowitzki Admits Getting Tense in Pressure Situations

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dallas Mavericks all-star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is still hearing criticism for his meltdown during a 129-127 double-overtime loss to Phoenix last week, admitted yesterday that he gets tight during pressure situations.

"I think everybody who says they don't get tense, they're lying," Nowitzki said following practice at Dodge Fitness Center on the campus of Columbia University, where the Mavericks were preparing for the Knicks tonight.

"It's big games. You got to find ways to stay loose and relax. I've been doing a decent job of not letting the pressure get to me and still enjoying the moment."

Nowitzki said he took the home loss to Phoenix -- in which Dallas blew a seven-point lead in the final minute -- harder than any regular season defeat.

Nowitzki said he couldn't sleep for two nights because he missed two free throws in the final minute of regulation and jumpers that would have won the game in regulation or forced a third overtime.

"We had it. No way we should've lost that game, but we did because I didn't make the necessary plays," he said. "I guess I'm 28 now, I shouldn't miss a free throw down the stretch. It happens. We're all humans. If we were all machines, the game would be boring. I guess emotions play a factor in a big game like that, and I missed two free throws that were crucial."

He bounced back, however, in the next two games, scoring 19 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter of a 106-101 win over the Celtics on Friday night and going 9 for 12 in the second half to help defeat the Pistons, 92-88, on Sunday.

Nowitzki said he wouldn't shy away from pressure situations in the future. "I love to have the ball at the end of games. That's what it's all about," Nowitzki said. "We all know if you make it, you're the hero. If you miss it, you're the goat. That's the position you have to be comfortable in. I guess I am."

-- Michael Lee

© 2007 The Washington Post Company