There were four key performances to the Mavericks game 1 victory over the Thunder. Three of them were fantastic and one of them was terrible. Dirk Nowitzki had one of the best playoff shooting performances of all time. He set an NBA record, not just post-season, for free throws made in a game without missing. His 24-24 performance from the line accounted for more than 20% of his team’s total points and has garnished him a considerable amount of praise from the national media, and rightfully so; but people have been missing out on the other three key performances from game one.
First, Kevin Durant had a fantastic game scoring 40 points with eight boards, five assists, two blocks and a steal. He showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and create for himself as well as for others on his team as he goes to the basket. While his game was not as efficient as Dirk’s game was there is no such thing as a bad 40 point game and KD deserves to get credit for his third 40-point game this post season. He also deserves a tip of the cap for at least attempting to D up on Dirk. Granted, Dirk did draw two quick fouls on Durant that quickly got him off the assignment but it takes a true competitor to step up against someone as hot as Dirk was last night and to try and stop him, even if he fails terribly.
Second, JJ Baraea was showing flashes of Steve Nash in his MVP years for about 10 minutes at the end of the game and has gotten very little credit for it. In a game that was within five points with just over three minutes left Baraea’s 21 points in 16 total minutes has gone almost unmentioned. When Dirk was needing a brief rest from being the go to Dallas scoring option JJ took over and diced up the Thunder defense like a supermodel waltzing down a runway. To show just how impressive Baraea was he averaged 1.31 point per minute, Dirk in one of the best games of his career averaged 1.17 points per minute. Baraea was explosive from the top of the key and crafty at the basket and when he wasn’t scoring he was creating for the rest of the team. He ended up with only one assist but that was because the Mavericks were doing such a great job of moving the ball that it was normally two or three passes before someone took a shot.
The final key performance of Game 1 was Russell Westbrook, who had a TERRIBLE game. But it was while he played 38 minutes and shot three of 15 from the floor. He also had only three assists and four turnovers. It will be next to impossible for OKC to win a game, much less the series if Westbrook doesn’t learn (or decide) to play smart basketball. However, to be fair to Westbrook sometimes things just don’t go your way and there is nothing you can do about it. For example, Westbrook found a good lane to drive, got their quickly and got the ball up, but Shawn Merrion came from behind him and blocked the ball… of the top of Westbrook’s head and out of bounds. That’s just plain old bad luck. There is nothing you can do about that but the way that you handle that can say a lot about the type of player you are or will become. We’ll see if he can step his game up in Game 2.
Looking forwardDallashas to feel pretty good about themselves because of Dirk. There is almost no way to stop his fade away jump shot and when he is on you can expect him to “drop it like it’s hot”. Throughout the 2011 playoffs Dirk has been amazingly consistent. The easiest way to quantify consistency is to find the variance from a player’s average (i.e. if you average 30 by scoring 25, 30, and 35 or by scoring 10, 30, and 50). Dirk leads the superstars (Dirk, Durant, Westbrook, Wade, LeBron, and Rose) with a with a playoff variance of only 5.54 points per game, whereas Durant has the highest variance of the superstars at 7.93. This means that Durant is more likely than Dirk to have a subpar game than Dirk, which could lead to catastrophe for his team, especially if Westbrook isn’t able to keep his head on straight. Game 1 was a game that Dallas was supposed to win, and the Thunder are still a very live dog in this series but how do you stop Dirk?