Tuesday, May 24, 2011
YOU JUST GOT DIRKED ON!
Somebody get Kevin Durant and friends some towels, because they just got Dirked on—hard.
This series isn’t over—technically speaking—but coming back from a 15 point deficit to win in overtime is a feat accomplished only once in the past 15 years of playoff basketball. Did you see Kevin Durant in his postgame conference? His body language was worse than David Kahn after he lost the lottery to a teenager. In terms of all-time heart wrenching pressers, Durant’s had to be right up there with Tracy McGrady’s tear-jerker. Most athletes after a big loss are matter-of-fact, short on patience, and snappy with the press. Not Durant…he was simply devastated. Who stole his cookie jar? Oh right, Dirk.
I’m flabbergasted by Oklahoma City’s lack of late game execution. Read this excellent take on OKC’s last play in regulation by NBAPLAYBOOK. Durant, it turns out, did exactly what he WASN’T supposed to do by flashing towards Westbrook (the ball handler in this case) rather than flaring to the corner off of a Collison screen. It results in Westbrook and Durant—Oklahoma City’s two best scorers—standing right next to each other, with five seconds on the clock, and three Mavericks planted directly between them and the hoop. What happens next as they say, is history.
It’s nice that Brooks actually decided to go with a set rather than your basic isolation play, but Durant’s massive F’ up speaks to Oklahoma City’s collective inexperience. If you follow the Celtics with any regularity you would know that Coach Doc Rivers is the MASTER of drawing up late game plays that work. Boston has won several games because of alley-oops from the inbounder to Kevin Garnett or a series of beautiful screens to spring Ray Allen free for a three-pointer. I’m mystified as to why Brooks doesn’t run catch and shoots for Durant more often in late game situations.
Assuming the Thunder do indeed fall to Dallas their offseason will feel a little longer than you would expect for a young squad on the rise. Kevin Durant needs to learn how to use screens to free himself for open shots. Russell Westbrook needs to play in “the flow” rather than jack up shots at the most inopportune times. And most of all, the coaching staff needs to figure out what the hell to do offensively. It’s strange to criticize a top ten offense, but it’s inconsistency in the postseason has been glaring. Folks will heap the blame on Westbrook, but really, doesn’t much of it lie on the shoulders of Coach Scott Brooks?
But for all of OKC’s late game struggles none of this would have happened if Dirk Nowitzki didn’t go super-nova. So far, he’s having one of the best playoff performances EVER. That’s right, EVER. He’s taken efficiency to another level. Dirk is averaging almost 29 points per game on only 18 shots. He’s shooting 52 percent from the field, 52 percent from behind the arc, and 92 percent from the free throw line. Those percentages are unheard of. If Nowitzki can keep pace with his scoring average all the way to the title, say eight more games, he’ll have scored 629 points. Now consider that he’s scored 629 points (not so far off of Jordan’s record 759) while shooting the coveted 50-40-90 (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from deep, 90 percent from the line), averaged like a kajillion points in the fourth quarter, and hit at least two what-the-f***-Dirk shots per game. That’s a lot of assumptions, but it really bangs home how impressive Dirk has been.
It’s hard to put greatness in perspective when you’re witnessing it, and with Dirk it’s happening right before our eyes. Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle has been adamant that Dirk Nowitzki is a top ten player of all time. When it’s all said and done it will be hard to disagree.
We—as the basketball watching community—rack our brains for historical precedents all the time. With our meager minds I think it’s the best way we know to put unbelievable events and feats of greatness in perspective. Even as I write this I struggle to come up with something particularly enlightening or ground breaking besides OMGDIRKNOWITZKIISABASKETBALLPHENOMSENTFROMHEAVEN.
But sometimes, we need to step back and appreciate an athlete for what he is, not who he is like. Dirk Nowitzki is his own beast entirely. I’ve never seen anyone play offense like the big German. With his seven foot tall frame I’ve never seen anyone hit such an array of shots with such a high degree of difficulty like Dirk has.
As a shooter, that “swish” that results from the ball dropping cleanly through the net is like crack-cocaine. I think Nowitzki is the most satisfied junky on the planet.
Posted by Richard Owens at 1:58 PM