Tuesday NBA grades: Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash cement legend status

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wondering if you really should cross a goat and a sheep

source:  Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks. When you pass Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson on a list, you are entering rarified air. With a catch-and-shoot 17 foot jumper from the elbow area early in the fourth quarter, Dirk Nowitzki passed Robertson for 10th on the NBA’s all time scoring list. Nowitzki now has 26,714 points in his career after his 21 on Tuesday. The German machine will go down as one of the great scorers to ever play the game — a 7-footer with three point range, an ability to stay balanced in awkward situations, and he has that ridiculous one-legged faraway. He’s a future Hall of Famer, the greatest European player ever in the NBA. When he’s gone in a few years the league will just feel a little emptier.

source:  Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers. With a smart little outlet pass late in the first half that led to a Jodie Meeks dunk, Steve Nash passed Mark Jackson for third on the NBA’s all time assists list — Nash now has 10,335. He did not get to that number thanks to his incredible physical gifts, rather he did it with hard work and an almost psychic feel for the game. He made himself a good shooter so teams just couldn’t lay off him and dare him to shoot. Nash is one of the best ever at just keeping his dribble alive, probing and once he sees an opening making the defense pay. For a guy whose career is ending on a literally painful note it is good to see Nash securing is spot in history.

source:  Atlanta Hawks. They lost to the Pistons, who recently lost to the Sixers. Yet Atlanta is still almost certain to make the playoffs — thanks again Eastern Conference. Even after this ugly loss the Hawks have a 1.5 game lead over the Knicks. The Hawks magic number is still three (combination of their wins and Knicks losses). The Hawks four games left are a back-to-back with Boston and Brooklyn, then they close out with Miami and Orlando, you’d thick there are three wins in there but who knows with this team. Yet they will make the playoffs and in the first round and likely face the Heat (for Miami that will be kind of like when Florida State football program’s home opener is against The Citadel, it’s just a glorified practice round).

source:  James Harden, Houston Rockets. Yes, it still counts if you do it against the Lakers “defense.” Harden had 33 points — 18 of those in the third quarter when the Rockets pulled away — on just 15 shots, plus he dished out 12 assists as the Rockets get the win. Houston put up 140 points on 57.7 percent shooting, and Harden was the focal point of that. The Beard looks playoff ready.