After playoff dud, Dirk usually bounces back

DALLAS -- Completely focused on trying to even the series he's playing in now, Mavericks forward Shawn Marion was in no mood to reminisce about a couple of playoff games that happened eight years ago.

Maybe that has something to do with the fact that it's a pretty painful memory for Marion, although Mavs fans will fondly remember when "Matrix" and the rest of the Phoenix Suns couldn't do anything to slow down Dirk Nowitzki while the big German went off for a franchise-playoff-record 50 points in Game 5 of the 2006 West finals.

"Right now, I'm on a team with him, so I can't go back to guarding him," Marion said after Tuesday's practice at the American Airlines Center before the Mavs returned to San Antonio for Game 2 with the Spurs. "It's like basically irrelevant now."

Here's why it's at least somewhat relevant right now: Nowitzki was coming off a horrendous performance in the previous game, scoring only 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting in a series-tying loss. His 50-point explosion a couple of nights later is an extreme example of Nowitzki's tendency to have big bounce-back games after off nights in the playoffs.

Sunday's Game 1 loss to the Spurs marked the ninth time out of Nowitzki's 129 career playoff games that he scored fewer than 15 points and shot worse than 30 percent from the field. One of those was when the Golden State Warriors eliminated the top-seeded Mavs in Game 6 of the 2007 first round.

After the other seven Dirk duds, he delivered an average of 27.1 points on 48.8 percent shooting in the next game of the series. That's the kind of performance the Mavs need from the 2011 Finals MVP to steal Game 2 on the Spurs' home floor and even this first-round series.

Some of Nowitzki's most memorable playoff performances have come immediately after poor outings. A few examples: a 33-point, 10-rebound night against the Utah Jazz in the first playoff win of his career; a 31-point, 11-rebound gem in Game 7 against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2003; and his 50/12 against Phoenix in 2006.

Does Dirk do anything different after a dud?

"Just look for my shot early," said Nowitzki, who finished with only 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting in Sunday's loss to the Spurs. "But on the other hand, don't be crazy, don't overdo it. Look for good opportunities.

"I thought I had some [in Game 1] that I just didn't convert. I don't think they're going to leave me much on pick-and-roll coverage all series. That's not going to happen where I can just sit out there and measure the wind and shoot. That's not going to happen in this series. But I'm going to take my opportunities when they're there. There were some. I've got to be better and just really take what they give me."

Dirk was especially irked about a wide-open 3-pointer and two-foot putback that he missed during Dallas' scoreless drought of nearly six minutes in the fourth quarter, when the Mavs' 10-point lead disintegrated.

Give the Spurs credit for doing a good job defending Nowitzki, particularly the efforts of center Tiago Splitter. It's an accomplishment to hold Nowitzki to 14 shots, period. But he had open looks on half of those and typically knocks down several contested shots each game.

In other words, with all due respect to San Antonio, the odds are slim Nowitzki will follow up Game 1 with another off night.

"Dirk is our least concern," Mavs guard Devin Harris said. "He is going to get his shots. He is going to make them. Obviously they didn't go in in Game 1, but we feel like had some good looks."

The Mavs worked the last two days on ways to get Nowitzki more good looks. That's more an execution issue -- setting better screens, for example -- than making major adjustments.

Nobody on the Mavs' payroll is panicking because of one poor performance by the face of the franchise.

"In the playoffs, everybody's dander gets up," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "But the thing about all-time great players is that it's not about one day coming in and saying, 'Hey, I'm going to go harder today or I'm going to be more aggressive today.'

"He's had the same approach every day for 16 years. It's gotten him into very rare territory in terms of scoring and all that kind of stuff and being viewed as one of the all-time great players. He's got to continue to do that.

"An off shooting night in Game 1 doesn't concern me."

Nor should it, as Nowitzki's track record of bounce-back games in the playoffs proves.