DALLAS – It’s a little strong to say that the Mavericks’ big men feel sympathy for Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison.
But Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood can certainly empathize with how frustrating it must have been for Collison in the fourth quarter of Game 4. Collison played textbook defense against Dirk Nowitzki and it just didn’t matter down the stretch.
While scoring 12 points during the OT-forcing 17-2 run, Dirk knocked down shots with Collison all over him on four straight possessions. Even by Dirk standards, a couple of those were off-the-dribble dandies that rank way up there on the degree-of-difficulty scale.
The first was a double-clutch, right-leaning jumper from the baseline. The next was a spinning, one-legged fadeaway from just inside the free throw line.
“When you play excellent defense and somebody shoots a shot that you don’t think is a great shot and it consistently goes in, what do you do?” Haywood said. “You’re taking away his first move and his second move. He’s going to his third or fourth move on you. You’re right there and he’s fading away and it’s going in every time. That’s gotta be frustrating.”
Added Chandler: “It’s frustrating because you’re doing everything you can to stop him and the guy is still scoring at will. There’s just nothing you can do.”
Not that the Mavs centers are surprised to see their 7-foot teammate make those shots. They see it all the time – in practice, games and late-night shooting sessions.
“He works on most of those shots,” Haywood said. “Every once in a while there might be one -- kind of like the one he threw up against Collison on the baseline -- that’s kind of like a crazy shot but for the most part, all those shots are by design.”
The shots are unique because there are very few players in NBA history with the ability to be so accurate while contorting his body. There certainly has never been another 7-footer with that combination of balance and bulls-eye marksmanship.
“No matter what his balance is on the floor, I honestly think it’s going in,” Chandler said. “If I see him with his arm straight toward the basket, I don’t care what his lower half is doing.”
And it often doesn’t matter what the defender is doing, as Collison can attest.