May 18, 2011 3 Comments
How in the world do you guard Dirk Nowitzki? Everyone seems to be raising the question and for good reason. The German giant played out of his mind Tuesday night in Dallas, shooting an absurd percentage while putting up nearly 50 in a game 1 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. So what’s the recipe for slowing this man down? A 7-footer with a soft touch, an unorthodox arsenal, and uncanny range. But didn’t we already know this? I’m not sure why it took another playoff outburst to get people talking about how good this guy is. RIGHT NOW dude is a top 25 scorer in NBA HISTORY and has scored more points than solidified legends such as Ray Allen, Clyde Drexler, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce, and yes…Larry Bird. Just like any other great offensive player, when the shot is falling, no defender or scheme will outmatch it. With the talent that’s in this league, good offense beats good defense every single time. But if you’re the Thunder, you can’t just hope he misses. How do you attempt to contain him? Personally, I think it starts with the defender. Within the first two or three possessions of the game Tuesday, when I saw Serge Ibaka guarding Dirk, I knew OKC had a problem on their hands. Forget Ibaka not being able to guard Dirk vertically on his jumper (because nobody can), but laterally Ibaka could not stay in front of him. In turn, Dirk was able to blow by him early for layups and get fouled in the lane. And that’s not to take away from Ibaka, who’s another near 7-footer that’s athletic as all hell (remember how he wowed us in the dunk contest with his agility and leaping ability), and is a solid defender (leads 2011 playoffs in blocks). But when it comes to side to side footwork and staying in front of a wing player whose jumper demands respect and will also put it on the floor when you’re too close…Ibaka is not your man for the job. As the game went on, Thunder coach Scott Brooks tried throwing 5 or 6 different defenders at Dirk, but by that time the beast had already grown larger than life. The Thunder also made the mistake of letting him catch the ball in good position while on his favorite side of the floor (the left side if your under the hoop facing half court). If you look at Dirk’s shot chart from Tuesday, of his 15 field goal attempts, 12 of them were inside the paint or on his favorite/strong side. If the Thunder can make the hardest part of Dirk’s offensive possessions before he ever catches the ball, while limiting his touches on his strong side, the Thunder will have a chance to win this series. Despite Dirk going nuts, OKC still had a shot to win coming down the stretch of game 1. Huge win for the Mavs, but I think we’ll see 6 more games between the two teams.