DALLAS – Six different Oklahoma City defenders drew the assignment of trying to stop Dirk Nowitzki during Game 1.
All six failed miserably as Dirk dropped 48 points on the Thunder in historically efficient fashion.
Well, how about committing a couple of defenders to Dirk every time he touches the ball? The Thunder hardly doubled the Mavs’ MVP at all in the series opener.
Of course, it’s not as if Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks didn’t consider that option. He had good reason for opting against doubling Dirk.
“You double and you give up a lot of 3s,” Brooks said. “They made 12 or 13 3s a game against the Lakers, and that’s what they do. They’re a good team and they put you in positions [where] you have to make decisions. We made the decision to really stay at home against their shooters and it didn’t work.”
The Mavs made 9-of-23 3-point attempts in Game 1, which is still a good percentage. But it’s a far cry from the playoff-record-tying 20 3-pointers they made on 32 attempts in the West semifinals sweep finale, when the Lakers doubled Dirk frequently for the only time all series.
“We like to believe that we have a lot of weapons,” said Jason Terry, who tied an NBA playoff record by knocking down nine 3s in the semifinals finale and is averaging 26.3 points in the last three games. “If they double, then we like that because it opens up the floor for our shooters.”
Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins lamented allowing Terry and J.J. Barea to combine for 45 points even more than he did giving up 48 to Nowitzki. However, Perkins said the key to containing Dirk was “to make him play in a crowd.”
“You’re going to have to give up something,” Perkins said. “But I’d rather take away the best player on their team and make a role player make plays. I think that’s what you have to do in the playoffs.
“I’d rather take away Dirk and make somebody else beat us. If we can make DeShawn Stevenson or Shawn Marion take most of the shots, or whoever else it might be, just try to get the ball out of Dirk’s hands.”
It’s one thing to try to force Stevenson and Marion to take shots. What happens when it’s Terry and Stojakovic on the floor getting wide-open looks on the weak side?
Just look at Game 4 against the Lakers, when the Mavs’ veteran sharpshooters off the bench combined to score 53 points and made 15-of-16 3-pointers. That puts as much fear into Brooks as Nowitzki’s almost flawless 48-point performance.