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Dirk Nowitzki is on another planet right now. He's never looked more comfortable, more confident, and more unstoppable. Tuesday night vs. the Thunder, Dirk finished with 48 points, and as OKC coach Scott Brooks said afterward, "Tonight he had a rhythm. He had a rhythm that I don't know if the ball even hit the rim."
Earlier Tuesday, I wrote that Dallas could struggle after a week-long layoff that might have destroyed the rhythm they found during the Lakers series. Later Tuesday, all you could was laugh. Dirk made everyone else look inferior--even Kevin Durant, who chipped in with 40 points of his own.
The rest of the Mavericks were just as ridiculous as Dirk, albeit in a relative sense. J.J. Barea took over at the beginning of the fourth quarter, scoring 12 straight points to bring him to 21 for the game, and Jason Terry chipped in with another 24 off the bench. Throw in Shawn Marion's efforts on defense, and all around, it couldn't have been a much better game for Dallas' reserves.
So, to review: Dallas' superstar played like the best player on earth, and Dallas' role players played as well as they've looked all year. Given the circumstances, it's pretty impressive the Thunder didn't lose by 40.
Also, Russell Westbrook reverted to his disastrous alter ego (we need a name for this), making things that much harder for OKC. As I wrote Tuesday, "If Russell Westbrook goes off the grid for at least two games in this series, that probably hands the Mavericks two wins."
The good news for the Thunder? If Dirk and the Dallas bench plays like that, they're not going to win, anyway. If anything, it's better to get one of Westbrook's evil games out of the way early. Dirk's not going to shoot 80% from the field for the rest of the series (or is he?), so if OKC can bounce back in Game 2, there's still a good chance they can render Dirk's opening argument moot.
As for Dallas? Well, if Dirk does stay this hot, it might just render the rest of the playoffs moot.
Dirk Nowitzki's performance in the 2011 NBA Playoffs shows that none of the methods teams used to slow him down in the past really work anymore.
Dirk Nowitzki had one of the greatest games of his career in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Dallas Mavericks star put up 48 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He did it on just 15 field goal attempts. He was a perfect 24-for-24 from the free throw line. All of this has been well documented by SB Nation’s Tom Ziller.
But while Nowitzki was incredible, he wasn’t the only positive for the Mavericks, according to SB Nation’s Mavs Moneyball. Some other good takeaways for Dallas in Game 1:
Dallas dispelled the thoughts that their layoff would cause them to “rust,” as if they’re some sort of metal machine that acted like a human. The word escapes me. Maybe Carlisle knows it.
JJ Superstar Barea killed it tonight. He was huge off of the bench, and sliced up the porous Thunder defense, just like he did in the series with the Lakers.
The Mavericks showed that being crafty and wise can overcome athleticism, but most of us knew that anyway.
As always, there were some negatives for Dallas that Mavs Moneyball points out, which include relying on Dirk too much. But on a night like he had in Game 1, they can hardly be blamed for that.
Game 2 of the Thunder-Mavericks series is Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Dirk Nowitzki had a night to remember on Tuesday as he almost single-handedly downed the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Dallas Mavericks 121-112 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Nowitzki scored a game-high 48 points, but his total wasn't the story. Instead, it was how he put those 48 points on the board and the efficiency he displayed en route to his record-setting night.
By the end of the third quarter, Nowitzki had already mowed down each defender the Oklahoma City Thunder had put in his path. In the third alone, he scored 17 points, 13 of which came from the free throw line. It was a theme for the night as Nowitzki drew fouls, got to the line and made the Thunder pay. When it was all said and done, Nowitzki had set a new NBA playoff record by connecting on all 24 of his free throw attempts, the most single-game makes without a miss in postseason history.
His exploits at the charity stripe contributed to an even more eye-popping stat: Nowitzki scored 48 points on just 15 field goal attempts and 12 makes. He missed just three shots from the field and operated with a level of unseen efficiency. By True Shooting percentage, a stat that accounts for field goal field goals, three-pointers and free throws, Nowitzki dwarfed Vince Carter's previous playoff high by an impressive margin, according to Kevin Pelton.
Dirk finishes with .939 TS%. Previous playoff high, min. 45 points, in @bball_ref era was .825 by V. Carter (5/11/01 vs. TOR)
At one point in the third quarter, Nowitzki's TS% sat at a healthy 99.1, which is outlandish no matter how you slice it.
Thanks to Nowitzki's prolific performance, the Mavericks head into Game 2 with the edge after Tuesday's nine-point win. But anyone that watched Tuesday night's game has to wonder just how Oklahoma City plans to guard Nowitzki and if it's even possible. After head coach Scott Brooks threw everything he had at the Dallas big man, Nowitzki shrugged, brushed his defender to the side like King Kong flicking a car and steamrolled the Thunder.
It was a two-man game for much of the night in Dallas as Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant went toe-to-toe in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. While Durant was excellent, Nowitzki was other-worldly and it paid-off for the Mavericks as they pulled away en route to a 121-112 win.
Nowitzki scored a game-high 48 points on just 15 shots in what was one of the more efficient performances you’ll ever see. He was perfect from the charity stripe, setting a new NBA playoff record by connected on all 24 of his free throw attempts.
JJ Barea and Jason Terry were each outstanding off the bench and provided a much-needed lift while complimenting Nowitzki. Terry added 24 points to the mix and Barea scored 24 points, including 12-straight at one point, almost exclusively on pick-and-rolls. Jason Kidd was also in double-figures with 11 points.
Durant had a team-high 40 points for the Thunder, but Nowitzki’s outstanding third quarter put Oklahoma City in far too deep a hole. Russell Westbrook added 20 points, but connected on just three of 15 shots from the floor while doing his damage at the free throw line.
Dirk Nowitzki is on a one-man mission in Dallas as his Mavericks host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Nowitzki has been unstoppable on the offensive end thus far, scoring 38 points while taking advantage of every matchup Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks throws at him. Nowitzki has connected on 10 of 12 shots from the field and all 18 of his free throw attempts while looking like a force to be reckoned with.
Through three quarters, Nowitzki has drawn 12 fouls, including two in about 15 seconds on Durant at one point. Nowitzki scored 17 points in the third quarter alone, including 13 points from the charity stripe. To call his performance efficient and dominant would be a gross understatement at this point.
For the Thunder, it’s the same story as usual. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have shouldered the offensive load, but the rest of the team is lagging well-behind. Durant has a team-high 27 points, with Westbrook adding 14 points to the mix. But Westbrook’s been making his money at the free throw line, and has only connected on two of 13 shots from the field thus far. No other player is in double-figures for the Thunder.
After three quarters, the Dirk Nowtizki experience has the Mavs in front of the Thunder, 90-79.
The Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder are certainly putting a show in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, with the Mavs leading by a score of 55-48 at halftime. Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki have been stunning so far, with Nowitzki, in particular, dominating in the second quarter. Russell Westbrook is currently ice cold from the field, but he's getting it done from the free throw line, scoring seven points despite making just one basket from the field.
After getting absolutely dominated on the boards in the first half, Dallas picked it up and the teams are now even at 19-19 on rebounds. Nowitzki has been the star with 21 points, but the Dallas bench has been just as good, as J.J. Berea and Jason Terry have combined for 19 points. The Thunder are also getting some good production off their bench from James Harden, but Kevin Durant has been the star, scoring 17 points.
For more on this game, Visit our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage. Mavericks fans should check out Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas, while Thunder fans should head over to Welcome To Loud City.
Kevin Durant is absolutely on fire right now, and his 13 points in the first quarter have the Oklahoma City Thunder up by a score of 27-20 on the Dallas Mavericks. Durant is shooting a perfect 5-5 from the field, 1-1 from three point land, and 2-2 from the free throw line. Quite simply, it's been a masterful performance thus far.
As great as Durant has been, Dirk Nowitzki has almost matched him. The Mavs' best player is shooting 4-4 from the field and 2-2 from the free throw line - pure perfection just like Durant - and he's sitting on 10 points. Unfortunately, he's not getting quite as much help from his teammates as Durant is. The Thunder's other players aren't doing much offensively, but they're absolutely destroying the Mavs on the boards, out-rebounding them by seven in just one quarter. If the Mavs are going to win this game, Tyson Chandler, in particular, needs to do a better job on the boards.
Shawn Marion will draw first duty on defending Kevin Durant, reports Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas. Marion, the Dallas Mavericks' starting small forward, will match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder's two-time scoring champ; the other option was DeShawn Stevenson. But Caplan reports the former Wizard will start at shooting guard and defend Russell Westbrook to open the series.
Caplan notes that Stevenson had the most success on Durant in the regular season; Marion is, however, bigger and more likely to play long minutes. Stevenson will make way for Jason Terry, though Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle may need to keep Stevenson in the game to handle Westbrook and instead pull point guard Jason Kidd.
James Harden, OKC's reserve two-guard, could also cause matchup problems when he joins Westbrook and Durant on the floor; that's a whole lot of offense for Dallas to handle, and makes playing someone like Kidd or reserve small forward Peja Stojakovic a bit terrifying.
Durant scored 39 points in the Thunder's Game 7 win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. He's averaging 28.9 points per game on an incredible .594 True Shooting percentage in the playoffs. KD averaged 29.3 points per game in three games against Dallas in the regular season.
Via Rob Mahoney.
The Dallas Mavericks and OKC Thunder. Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant. Who ya got? Before Game 1 tips off on Tuesday night, let's breakdown a handful of key factors to watch in the Western Conference Finals, and predict a winner.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have used a small line-up to strong effect in a few NBA Playoffs game, most notably in a vital second quarter run in the classic Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round. That line-up featured Kevin Durant at power forward, and simply lit Memphis on fire. Scott Brooks went back to the well to more mild but needed success as the series wore on.
SI.com's Zach Lowe did strong work to break down the line-up's success and limits, and he finds that against the Dallas Mavericks, who OKC faces in the Western Conference Finals beginning Tuesday, it's a risky gambit.
There is an undeniable appeal to playing Durant at the power forward, especially in this series. ... [T]here's the conventional wisdom that long and quick small forward types - think Bruce Bowen, Stephen Jackson, Nicolas Batum - can bother Nowitzki enough to make small lineups a legitimate weapon against Dallas.
I'm skeptical. This isn't 2007, Nowitzki has largely figured out the Bowen prototype, and Durant is just not ready to defend Nowitzki - not even in short doses. Dirk would eat him up [...]. The Thunder would be forced to send more help than would otherwise be required. Ask the Lakers what happens when you have to send too much help in Nowitzki's direction.
Kendrick Perkins frankly struggled during the Grizzlies series, not just on offense where he's usually a minus but on defense. So it will likely be Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison -- smaller than even Durant, but experienced and strong -- tasked with stopping Nowitzki.
But when Dirk is out of the game, this small Thunder line-up could do damage, as Shawn Marion (Dallas' starting small forward) will rotate to power forward. His offense is good, but not so spectacular Durant can't keep it in check. Of course, KD needs rest, too, and Brooks may be forced to sit Durant in the normal spans when Nowitzki sits, too. The matchup between the star forwards sets up a real chess match for each possession, let alone the series.
Visit our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage.
Dirk Nowitzki has been off for more than a week, so if he flew high after leading his Dallas Mavericks past the Los Angeles Lakers in a stirring and stunning sweep in the second round, that sweet emotion has perhaps dissipated. After all, it isn't as if Nowitzki hasn't been here before; the 2007 MVP nearly won the championship in 2006. Making the Western Conference Finals isn't exactly new, even if it's been a while.
For Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, it's new. The young squad won 20 games just three years ago, and few more the following season. Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden -- the teams' four most important players -- are all on their rookie deals. (Durant begins his lucrative second contract next year.) Perhaps this season, this core hadn't won a playoff series; now, they are four wins away from the NBA Finals.
So while the old guard-new guard trope might seem cliché as we enter the Western Conference Finals, it fits. A last hurrah for the Mavericks, a predictive triumph for the Thunder. The teams will meet in Game 1 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Dallas has home court advantage, which should come in handy; Oklahoma City has gone 2-3 on the road in these playoffs and 6-1 at home. Dallas showed an ability to win on the road by taking Game 6 in Portland against the Trail Blazers and sweeping the Lakers in Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles. But that won't matter this week, as the Mavericks -- undefeated in the playoffs at home -- play host for the first two games.
Westbrook's ability to replicate his Game 7 playmaking -- he finished with 14 assists -- could be key as the Mavericks will assuredly throw the book at Durant and a million different defensive looks at the Thunder. Expect plenty of zone from Dallas, as the Mavericks will test Westbrook's decision-making and OKC's sometimes iffy shooting. On the other end, how Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins defend Dirk while always keeping Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood off of the offensive glass will be crucial. The Lakers showed that you also ought to be worried about Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic shooting open threes. (Who knew?)