DALLAS -- If the NBA awarded an NHL-style Conn Smythe Trophy to the overall playoff MVP, who could argue that through three rounds Dirk Nowitzki would not be the runaway leader? Has anyone been better?
After scoring 26 points in Wednesday's Game 5 clincher, Nowitzki finished the Western Conference finals averaging 32.2 points a game on 55.7 percent shooting (he shot 57.4 percent in the sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers). That included 48 points in Game 1 and 40 in Game 4. Over the course of the playoffs, 15 games in which Dallas is 12-3 and 10-1 since the Game 4 loss at Portland, Nowitzki is averaging 28.4 points, second overall by a minuscule 0.2 points behind Kevin Durant.
That's despite the Thunder seemingly figuring out how to limit Dirk's touches. In Game 4, Nowitzki was 8-of-11 after three quarters and finished with 20 shots and40 points. In Game 5, Nowitzki got off fewer shots than J.J. Barea, Shawn Marion and even DeShawn Stevenson for a large chunk of the game. He had just eight shot attempts through three quarters. In the fourth, he got off seven shot attempts. He made just two, but both were 3-pointers, including the go-ahead dagger with 1:14 to play.
The Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls will certainly look at how the Thunder tried to sneak the center over and flood the strong side to take away easy catches where Nowitzki can then simply shoot over his defender as he did all night in Game 1.
"I didn't really have a lot of good catches there, clean catches early," Nowitzki said. "But, like I said, I've got to keep attacking for this team."
And that might be the biggest difference in Dirk's game today. He is relentless. He doesn't get discouraged if he's being played physically by a big man or irritated by a small guy. It just doesn't matter. Dirk remains relentless with near-unstoppable drives and his patented one-legged fallaway that's been the talk of the NBA this postseason.
Dirk set a career mark of 51.7 percent shooting during the regular season. He's at 51.7 percent in the postseason.