OKC deserves credit for disrupting Dirk
May, 20, 2011
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- The Thunder made smart, subtle adjustments to do a much better job defending Dirk Nowitzki without selling out.
Oklahoma City doubled more often than in Game 1, but they used that strategy as a changeup with mixed results. The primary reason Dirk didn't completely dominate is because the Thunder made it difficult for him to catch the ball on his Game 1 sweet spot, a few feet off the right block.
Reserve forward Nick Collison, who played 26 scrappy minutes before fouling out, did a particularly good job of preventing post-up touches.
"Yeah, they tried to keep the ball out of my hands a little more," said Nowitzki, who still scored 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting. "I thought Collison actually was trying to front me a little bit, and that's why in the fourth quarter I actually got a lot of my catches at the high post because it's impossible to front there."
In hindsight, the Mavs should have let Dirk work from the high post a lot earlier. He scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the fourth quarter, including a few layups after he caught the ball on the move near the elbow.
The fronting tactic created opportunities for big man Tyson Chandler (15 points) because the Oklahoma City centers had to cheat toward Nowitzki to prevent the over-the-top entry pass. That's a trade-off the Thunder will take every time.
When Nowitzki did catch the ball near the block, the Thunder did a much better job of crowding him without making whistle-drawing contact than they did during his historically efficient 48-point Game 1 performance.
"I thought we did a good job of really getting into him and not allowing him to really lace it up and just shoot it over our head," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We did a good job, but it's still not easy. The guy still had nearly 30 points, and I thought we played as well as we could possibly play."