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Thursday, May 5, 2011
Dirk Nowitzki abuses Ron Artest

By Tim MacMahon



LOS ANGELES – Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked before Game 2 whether Ron Artest might be the answer to riddle that is defending Dirk Nowitzki.

We got the answer in the final few minutes of the first half: Absolutely not.

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Nowitzki overruled the play call as soon as he saw Artest was defending him. Then Dirk went to work on the block.

"I saw Artest was on me and I just pushed [Jason Terry] out and said let me take care of this matchup on the low post,” Nowitzki said. “I felt like I could shoot over him.”

He was right. The 7-footer hit a couple of turnaround jumpers over the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Artest. He knocked down a couple of free throws when Artest was whistled for a foul after trying to wrestle Nowitzki off the block. When the Lakers helped Artest with a double-team, Nowitzki spotted Shawn Marion slashing to the hoop and hit him for an and-1 layup.

Just like that, Nowitzki accounted for nine points on four possessions, all post-ups. That gave the Mavs the lead for good.

It also crushed any belief that Artest, a former Defensive Player of the Year, could man up against the Mavericks’ MVP. That’s a mismatch the Mavs will attack if Artest takes another turn on Dirk.