Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Big German strikes a pose, Spurs
By Tim MacMahon
DALLAS -- The Double Guns made their debut Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
That's Dirk Nowitzki's newest move.
We're not discussing an addition to Dirk's awesome arsenal of ways to put the ball in the basket. It's another celebration to go along with the goofy jersey tug or tongue-wagging dagger face he occasionally does after drilling big shots.
When Dirk knocked down a 3-pointer to seal the Dallas Mavericks' 99-94 overtime win over the Interstate 35 rival San Antonio Spurs, the big German's biceps went up.
"You saw that?" Nowitzki said with a grin. "I didn't flex, though. I didn't flex. I just held them up. The guys told me to put some more force behind it. I've definitely got to work on that move."
Well, he certainly is getting a lot of opportunities to practice his celebrations.
Dirk ended up on the bottom of a dogpile Monday night in Milwaukee after his 18-foot fallaway fell at the overtime buzzer to beat the Bucks. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week followed up that performance by scoring 11 of his season-high 41 points in overtime against the Spurs.
And he's only a couple of weeks removed from exploding for a franchise-record 29 points in the fourth quarter of a double-digit comeback win over the Utah Jazz. Nowitzki has been kidded about showing so much emotion at this point of the season, but it's been quite a November to remember for a guy who had a forgettable summer.
"This is what I love to do, especially after the summer that I had, getting over everything," Nowitzki said, referring to his all-too-public breakup with his now-jailed former fiancee. "Just doing what I love to do, it's been a blast."
Nowitzki's scoring ability is almost taken for granted as he nears the 20,000-point milestone. It's no big deal to see the 7-footer think 3-pointer when he catches the ball in transition, then blow by a closing defender for a lefty and-1 layup, as he did during overtime.
But Nowitzki's grit is not appreciated enough.
NBA players don't earn clutch reputations in November, so you can wave off Dirk's trio of spectacular performances this month if you want. But he is one of the premier playoff performers of his generation despite his ongoing quest for a championship. The proof: Nowitzki joins Shaquille O'Neal, Bob Pettit, Hakeem Olajuwon and Elgin Baylor on the list of 25-point, 10-rebound playoff producers with at least 50 games of postseason experience. And Spurs fans don't need to be reminded that Dirk has a history of hitting big shots in the playoffs, highlighted by his overtime-forcing and-1 drive in Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference semifinals.
Or you could just look at what Dirk did Wednesday night against the Spurs.
He could hardly get a shot to fall during the first half, when he had nine points on 3-of-9 shooting. He kept his poise and found his stroke, pouring in 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting in a back-and-forth game after the break. He had 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. He also finished with 12 rebounds.
"He's got a great motor, but he also has tremendous endurance for a 7-foot NBA player," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Not many guys have his sort of determination late in games to get the ball in the basket and to stay physically into it even when he's playing more minutes than we'd like him to."
Added new Mavs teammate Tim Thomas, who defended Dirk during his franchise-record 50-point playoff performance in Game 5 of the '06 West finals. "I've been on the other side of it. He's one of those guys that have the most confidence in himself and his abilities. It might be a situation where he might be struggling for a couple minutes or whatever and he just continues to go after it. That's the mentality you have to have for a guy who's going to be your franchise player or your leader."
Dirk's most impressive work in the overtime win actually might have been on the defensive end.
With Erick Dampier out due to an illness and Drew Gooden sitting with six fouls, the finesse power forward formerly known as Irk drew the defensive assignment against Tim Duncan down the stretch. Duncan didn't score in overtime.
Dirk didn't flex his muscles after the game was in the bag, but he definitely did when it was on the line.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.