Thursday, February 6, 2014
Sizzling Dirk: 'It's not about numbers'
By Tim MacMahon
DALLAS -- At the ripe old age of 35, Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t do heat checks.
Nobody would blame Nowitzki if he forced up a few extra shots while in the midst of his sizzling streak. An argument can be made that there is no such thing as a bad shot for a guy who has hit 61.6 percent of his field goals in the past five games, averaging 29.8 points per game during that span.
Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 29.8 points on 61.6 percent shooting over his past five games.
But Nowitzki isn’t taking an inordinate amount of shots during this stretch, attempting 17.2 field goals per game over the past five games, only one more than his season average. He’s just making an eye-popping percentage, including 55 percent of his 3-point attempts.
“Maybe 10 years ago, I would have shot a little more,” Nowitzki said. “I would have probably forced a couple, but it’s really not about any numbers for me anymore. It’s about being efficient.”
Prolific scorers don’t get much more efficient than Nowitzki during this stretch. His true shooting percentage, a statistic that factors in the value of 3-pointers and free throws, is 74.1 during his five-game groove.
That’s evidence of a historically elite shooter being hot, but it’s also proof of his patience and smart shot selection.
It’s not that Nowitzki passes up good looks, which for him include one-legged fadeaways that are low-percentage shots for the vast majority of players. He just places a priority on making the right play based on the defensive look, a luxury he has with a supporting cast that features several scoring threats.
“At this point in my career, if I see a crowd or if there’s a double-team, I think I’m better off moving it and letting someone else make a play,” said Nowitzki, who has a good chance to join Larry Bird and Steve Nash as the only players in NBA history to have more than one 50-40-90 shooting season (field goal/3-point/free throw percentages). “It takes a lot of effort to score on double-teams consistently. You can do it every now and then, but I don’t really feel the need to score on double-teams on this team.
“We have some shot-makers. We feel Monta [Ellis] can get in the lane at any time. If I draw a double-team in the post, that means someone is open for a shot or a drive. So that’s what I’ve been doing.”
The Mavs prefer not to run plays for Nowitzki because they prefer to run as few plays as possible, period. Coach Rick Carlisle would rather have the Mavs operate out of the flow offense, which relies on random movement, making it more difficult for opposing defenses to load up against Nowitzki.
Nowitzki’s ability to score from all over the floor is the key factor in creating space and opportunities for his teammates. His willingness to move the ball, even when it seems like he can’t miss, is critical to the Mavs maximizing their offensive potential.
The Mavs’ offensive performance during their 4-1 run in the past five games is pretty close to maximizing that potential. They’re averaging 114.4 points and shooting 52 percent in that span.
“You can give him the ball and I feel like he’s going to make every shot,” point guard Jose Calderon said. “That’s how I feel right now. He’s been great. He’s doing a lot of things for us. The defense has got to be on him all the time.
“Because of the system we’ve got, at the end of the day, you don’t have to look for him all the time. But we know where we’re probably going to go to him. At the end of the day, he feels comfortable that way. Sometimes he’s going to shoot, but sometimes he’s going to pass the ball to an open player. That makes him even greater.”