Dallas Over his 14 seasons in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki says he’s seen pretty much every defense possible.
Well, Thunder coach Scott Brooks is tempted to try the ultimate gamble — the invisible defender.
That’s right, nothing. Nobody. Maybe just someone shouting, “Boo!” or “Don’t miss!” whenever Nowitzki loads up to shoot in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals tonight.
Brooks surely was joking Wednesday when he suggested not guarding Nowitzki. Brooks wasn’t laughing, though, because he was still awed and frustrated by what happened in the opener, when the big German made 12 of 15 field goals and set a playoff record by hitting all 24 of his free throws on his way to 48 points, the most by anyone this postseason.
“There were nine shots that he made, no matter what you did, you couldn’t have guarded him any better,” Brooks said. “We put smalls (on him), we put medium-sized guys on him, we put big guys on him, we put everybody on him. We tried to take it out of his hands. The only thing we didn’t do was not guard him.
“Maybe tomorrow night, if we want to do something different, we don’t challenge him. We play a zone and let him go free.”
Nowitzki simply had one of those nights superstars have, making almost everything he put up and getting to the foul line when he didn’t.
His efficiency was phenomenal: 48 points on just 15 shots. He didn’t pad it with any three-pointers, either. Heck, he didn’t even try any, despite being an NBA-best 60 percent from behind the arc this postseason.
He figures the Thunder will try something different in Game 2. Rather than trying to guess along, he said Wednesday, “Whatever comes, comes.”
“I’m going to try to attack like I always do,” he said. “If it’s not there, I can swing it, pick and roll. We’ve got a lot of options out there. We have a deep bench. So I don’t feel the pressure to force shots, and that’s the good thing about this team.”
Because Nowitzki had such a historic performance, it’s easier for the Thunder to find some positives in Game 1, starting with them keeping things close to the end.
Although Dallas went up by 16 early in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City rallied to get within five. The Thunder also scored 112 points, 15 more than the Mavericks had allowed all postseason.
Plus, they did all that with Russell Westbrook pulling an anti-Nowitzki, missing 12 of 15 shots.
So Oklahoma City fans have to be thinking that if Nowitzki misses a few more, and Westbrook makes a few more, the Thunder can still go back across the Red River with a split. It’s also worth noting they’ve yet to lose consecutive games this postseason.
“That’s one thing about this team, we’re resilient, we bounce back,” Thunder star Kevin Durant said. “Hopefully it’s another case of that in Game 2.”
Durant scored 40 points in the opener, but was overshadowed by Nowitzki and was held back by Westbrook’s woes. Late in the third quarter, the misfiring point guard had attempted more shots than the NBA’s scoring leader the last two seasons.