May 18, 2011

Fourth Reich

Oooooh, we really don't know enough about German history to tell if that headline's offensive or funny. Fingers crossed!

So Dirk did some crazy things last night, as you've probably heard. 48 points on 12-15 shooting from the field and 24-24 from the line (yup, that's a record). Over at The Point Forward (our favorite hoops blog), Zach Lowe did a little research and discovered that, in the last 26 years, only one other player has scored 45+ points on 16 or fewer FGA. It was in the regular season against the Knicks and his name was Gilbert.

Dirk's was an utterly unique performance. With a few exceptions (that early baseline spin and jam on Ibaka, the gorgeous pump fake on Perkins, the turnaround banker on Sefolosha), none of Nowitzki's points were too memorable. He just caught the ball 18 feet from the hoop, stared his defender down, and either got fouled or hit the J. Over and over and over. By the end of the game Serge Ibaka had the shakes. That's what happens when you try to cover Jesus in the high post.

In the face of such monotonous brilliance, the Thunder responded with the kitchen sink. Ibaka was the primary defender, followed by Collison, but Harden, Sefolosha, Durant, Perkins, even Westbrook on some mismatches - they all took a crack at him. The most intriguing matchup, Durant, failed spectacularly, fouling Nowitzki twice on the same possession, but it would be interesting to see what he can do over a longer stretch. Little known fact: Durant is 7 feet tall. Nowitzki is stronger, but he can't just back him down and shoot over him, and he definitely can't outquick or outjump him. Besides, it's what we all want to see! Either that or Nate Robinson.

Returning to Durant, Dirk's evening also completely overshadowed Kevin's own explosion. 40 points on 10-18 and 18-19, 8 boards, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. That's one of the top five performances of the playoffs, and it didn't even register in real time. Durant would bury a triple, or a sweet turnaround over Jason Kidd (Jason Kidd? Seriously? Little known fact: Durant is seven feet tall), and it would resonate for about half a second before you started looking forward to more Dirk.

The Mavericks have now played two games in a row of nearly perfect offense. Headed into the series, the braintrust at ZA couldn't figure out how the Mavs were going to matchup defensively with the Thunder's explosive athleticism. We still don't know (the Thunder did score 112 points), and it probably doesn't matter as long as J.J. Barea keeps dropping 21 points in 16 minutes.

On the other hand, it didn't feel like anybody on the Thunder other than Durant really showed up, and they were still only down five with just under four minutes to go. Is it more impressive to reveal a prediction after your pick loses the first game? We hope so. Banking on Westbrook relocating his joie de vivre, Harden terrorizing Dallas off the bench, and the unyielding truth that Deshawn Stevenson is a ticking time bomb waiting for the worst possible moment to go off, Zards ALards! is sticking with our previously unpublished prediction: Thunder in 7

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