Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 at 12:37 am  |  28 responses

Links: Day Five Playoff Thoughts

The Spurs are back! Whither Dirk?

by Lang Whitaker

Orlando beat Charlotte and San Antonio won in Dallas.

That’s all, thanks!

OK, that’s not quite it. I watched all that Dallas/San Antonio game and, not really caring who won, enjoyed seeing the Spurs click, at least for one night. I think Dallas has a better roster, but the Spurs might be a better TEAM. When they’re making shots, and sharing the ball, and helping on defense, there might not be a prettier brand of basketball to watch in the NBA. It takes a certain basketball nerd’s eye to appreciate Tim Duncan banking in one-handed runners in the post, but I admire the consistency of the Spurs, the way they always just do what they do.

As for Dallas, I kind of think of them like Orlando last season. The Magic weren’t the best team in the East during the regular season, but they got hot in the Playoffs, got to play Cleveland where the match-ups worked in their favor, and suddenly they were in the NBA Finals. If thinks break the right way for Dallas, I could totally see them getting on a roll and zipping right into the Finals. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if they lost this series to the Spurs.

When I went on the road with the Hawks for that story earlier this season, I was with the Hawks when they played at Dallas, and I sat courtside and got to watch the Mavs up close. The Hawks had one of their better defensive nights that evening and managed to cling to a lead as the game came down the stretch.

As pretty much everyone does against Atlanta, the Mavs made every effort to force the Hawks to switch picks on defense and create mis-matches. And it worked. Twice in the last three minutes, the Mavs managed to get Mike Bibby guarding Dirk Nowitzki. Both times the Mavs recognized it, got Dirk the ball and cleared out that side of the court.

Now, Dirk is seven feet tall and 250 pounds. Bibby is about a foot shorter and 50 pounds lighter. And both times Dallas got the ball to Dirk with the most favorable match-up possible, he shot fadeaway jumpers over Bibby.

It was disappointing to me, and I was rooting for the Hawks to win. Someone that big against someone that little? Back him down and go right over the top, right? Easy. But he didn’t. He bumped Bibby and then spun away from him and fired up fadeaway jumpers. And he missed both of them. Maybe ball don’t lie?

I am not here to fundamentally criticize Dirk Nowitzki as a basketball player. If any player in the NBA is good at shooting fadeaway jump shots, it’s Dirk Nowitzki. If I needed a player to make a fadeaway jumper, it would probably be Dirk, because he’s friggin’ seven feet tall and can shoot over basically anyone.

But those crunch-time possessions against the Hawks have stuck in my head for the last five months. The more I’ve thought about them, the more they’ve bothered me. In Dirk’s hands, the fadeaway may be a high-percentage shot. But if he lowers his shoulder and goes toward the rim, Bibby was waiting to give a foul and maybe give him a three-point play.

I’ve read way more into those two plays than should be read into them. I know people have debated ad nauseum whether or not Dirk is a player a franchise can actually build a championship team around. Can he come up big when it matters most?

Previously, I was just undecided.

But now, after thinking about those plays for the last five months, now I’m not so sure.

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  • Kevin

    Dirk is to soft and plays no defense…. Franchise player? hmmm… Would pick Yao Ming over them (I know it is not a fair comparison)but Yao has the whole CHinese market behond him

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Spurs=worst reward you could ever want for finishing 2nd. I think this will be 7 games and be best first round series.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    And here i was thinking the Dirkbashing on this site was all but gone, sad to see i was wrong. Watched the game too, man and Dirk was by no means the reason Mavs lost this one, in fact this was one of the best all around performances i’ve ever seen him produce. in the 3rd and 4th he was involved on nearly every play, good or bad. Calling out matchups on D, switching on people, disrupting passes, grabbing or tipping offensive rebounds, his shot was way off today so he started running in transition and got big points on fastbreaks and on some drives. you can all start your “Dirk is soft” lament, but hey no team’s gonna win while shooting 36% from the floor. Matter of fact, Jason Terry thought he was feeling it so bad, he started jacking up all kinds of rubbish, and if my count is correct, missed 6 shots in a row in the 4th, when the Mavs had closed it to within 7 points. I’m not too worried, Mavs will get homecourt back in SA. Nowitzki doesn’t shoot 9-24 too often.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Yao Ming is a franchise player, hmm? wait, i think i just injured my foot while reading that. geez.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Please, for the love of whomever Ricky C. worships, FREE RODDY? You gave Ason (yup, that “revamped” jumper was nowhere to be seen again, just like last playoffs against Denver) 40 minutes, and Barea only 10? Wow, Jason must have compromising pics of Carlysle or something. Tony Parker and George Hill ate him up on offense.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    The Spurs are like that one glitch zombie in Resident Evil – you keep beating it with a shovel but it keeps rising. Die already!
    Dirk can come up big in playoff moments wh- oh, that’s another foul on Dirk. Wade to the line for 2.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Anton: nice.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    @Kevin: Why does Yao being a national hero have anything to do with his on-court credentials as a franchise player? Does Carlos Arroyo start over Mario Chalmers in Miami because he’s Puerto Rico’s pride and joy? Ludicrous logic. By that regard Dirk should be a legit “franchise player” too in your book, since he is to Germany what Yao is to China.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    The Spurs might just pull this off. But I think Dallas is hungry and deep and talented enough to prevent that. Intriguing stuff.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    another game where a team gets behind by 20, and somehow cuts the deficit to single digits

  • http://www.nba.com/bobcats Anton

    I am excited for the Lakers game tonight, hopefully Kobe plays good again.
    I have a bad feeling the Cavs aren’t making it past the second round. I don’t know why. I am getting more annoyed at Bron, then I am at Khloe Kardasian’s eye liner!!
    I can honestly say that Bron is a d1ck!!

  • g-paul

    co-sign ANTON

  • dario

    he averages 25 and 11 for his career in the playoffs, speaking of coming up big when it matters …
    and dont give me that he doesnt have a ring bs…

  • J.C.

    I think Dirk’s done a good job to shake the perception that he disappeared in big games. Back in ’06 and ’07 after those series against the Heat and the Warriors he probably deserved it but he’s quietly become one of the more clutch guys in the League over the last couple of years. You’d be surprised but when you think about it he has hit a lot of clutch shots.

  • dario

    uhhh, quick question: who scores more 4th quarter points, Dirk or Kobe …?

  • not dario

    well, I would say Dirk (AT 7 DAMN FEET TALL) shoots more fade-away jumpers and often resembles an octopus falling out of a tree when he is driving/spinning in the lane

  • Ken

    What’s the deal with so many of the Suns-Blazers games being on NBA TV? I thought these were the playoffs…how are there good games which aren’t on national TV? I feel ripped off.

  • peter

    Lang, exactly like Kobe did when he got the smaller guy on him last game and he turned and went straight up and over for the and 1…his shot looked so much better than the fade aways he resorts to so often. Dirk should be able to do this almost every time!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    I agree with your analysis that Dirk shoots the fadeaway at a high percentage, but could probably get to the rack and finish/get fouled at a higher percentage. Taking it a step further, I think it applies to LeBron sometimes, too. Watch him closely. He settles for Js often. Hit or miss, isn’t him taking it to the rack a higher percentage look?

  • Wat Misaka

    they all need to learn how to play from josh smith.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    @Wat: Great handle! He’s gotten some good pub lately.

  • http://slamonline.com JL

    is it me or does kidd play in slow motion now adays? I haven’t seen him play in a while.

  • http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:OzhW3M1GBSKkgM:http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    Still waiting for Wat’s Slam Cover.

  • mj23

    Dirk is the second best all time white player in the NBA after Larry Bird. I think he would’ve been a superstar if he played in the 80′s.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Is Dirk really better than Kevin McHale or Jerry West?
    Rick Barry?
    There are several other white stars I could name, but those three will do?

  • TD

    Legos made piece to commemorate Farrah Fawcett?

  • doyouwantmore

    Bibby’s defense had something to do with Dirk missing those shots. He doesn’t have the greatest athleticism or size, but he has good footwork and…ah forget it.

  • T-Money

    AT LEAST on par with McHale and Barry. I don’t think either could do a better job than him as a franchise guy. Jerry West is another story.