Celtics fans were really pulling for Dirk Nowitzki to make a basket in what could be his final game at the Garden

"Man, I wanted him to make a shot. Jesus Christ," Jaylen Brown said after the game.

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki watches his 3-point shot miss as the TD Garden fans cheer him on during the fourth quarter. –AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The sellout TD Garden crowd really, really wanted — like, really, really wanted — forward Dirk Nowitzki to score during Friday night’s Celtics-Mavericks game.

Despite their buoyant “Dirk! Dirk! Dirk!” and “Let’s go Dirk” chants, the 18,624 fans in attendance couldn’t will Nowitzki to make a basket. Nowitzki, who logged a season-high 16 minutes, had 10 opportunities to knock down a bucket but didn’t connect on any of his attempts — not even the last-ditch three-pointer as the game clock expired. Had he scored, Nowitzki would have passed retired Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for most points scored at the Garden by a Western Conference player.

Advertisement

“I’ve rooted for the opponent to score two times in my life: Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki,” coach Brad Stevens said after Boston’s 114-93 win. “I was sitting over there just like everyone else in the building, saying, ‘Go in. Go in.’”

Nowitzki attributed his 0-for-10 game to having “just one of those nights,” but, in spite of his poor shooting, he said he’ll never forget the reception, which began with an ovation when he first checked into the game. In the midst of his 21st, and potentially final, NBA season, the 40-year-old called the crowd’s cheers “super sweet” and “super emotional.”

“It’s sweet when, not only your home fans but, fans on the road appreciate what you have done in the last two decades,” Nowitzki said. “I appreciate the fans of Boston and, unfortunately, I was really disappointed I couldn’t even make one.”

After the final buzzer, several Celtics shook Nowitzki’s hand on the court.

“Dirk has done so much for the game of basketball,” said Gordon Hayward, who likened the situation to when he was on the court for Bryant’s last game. “Happy to see him still out there. He’s such a great player.”

Advertisement

“It’s going to be a sad day when Dirk steps away from the game,” added Brown. “I got to spend some time with him in South Africa in Johannesburg. Just as he is a great basketball player, he’s a great person. He’s super cool, low-key, humble, and always joking around. When he finally steps away from this game — he gave so much to it — it’s going to be truly an honor. It’s just super cool to just be in his presence and watch him out there. He’s a true legend.”