Brooks cites area of progress in new Dirk

DALLAS -- Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks obviously doesn't want to double Dirk Nowitzki. Do it and you risk unleashing 3-point fury. Don't and you risk another 48 from Nowitzki who is feeling so good that early in Game 1 he showcased a rare rollicking-dunk to finish a quick-release baseline-spin.

Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, toasted by Nowitzki in the opener, said his plan is to try to force Nowitzki to dribble rather than simply face him up, lean back and float it over him.

"Be more aggressive, try to make him dribble more, put the ball on the floor," Ibaka said Wednesday.

Brooks said his team must stop allowing Nowitzki to stand wherever he wants and catch the ball, particularly on the right wing where he was deadly from 12 to 18 feet.

While plenty of barstool talk is focusing on how this "new" Dirk is somehow different from that other Dirk, Brooks has found at least one area. He was asked how Nowitzki has changed over the past five years.

"One, his experience and he’s gotten stronger," Brooks said. "Earlier in his career you could put a small on him and really just push him around and make him catch it where he didn’t want the ball. Now, you can’t do that. He’s as strong as anybody in the league in that spot."

If it continues, Brooks might have no choice but to circle Nowitzki and take his chances on the arc.