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Friday, February 29, 2008

No "Kidd"-ing: Spurs Edge Mavs

It is easy to forget that just two years ago the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs contested an epic playoff series that was not decided until overtime in game seven. For those of you who have forgotten--or who think that Dirk Nowitzki always comes up short in the big games--Dallas beat San Antonio 119-111 in that seventh game and Nowitzki led the way with 37 points and 15 rebounds, shooting 11-20 from the field and 15-16 from the free throw line. We may get to see this matchup again in this year's playoffs and if Thursday's game was a preview of coming attractions then this showdown will once again be a treat to watch.

The Spurs beat the Mavs 97-94 at San Antonio in a back and forth game that provided a handy reminder of just how valuable Tim Duncan really is. His numbers were excellent (31 points, 15 rebounds, 12-20 field goal shooting) but, as Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich explained after the game, Duncan's impact at both ends of the court goes even deeper than what the statistics portray: "Offense, the ball goes through him. On defense, he's our defender, our rebounder. Everybody rotates off him. He's just really special. We don't get anything done without him."

Manu Ginobili has been playing really well for the past month or so and whenever that happens it is inevitable that certain people will pipe up to suggest that Ginobili is nearly as valuable as Kobe Bryant. There are a number of problems with that theory, not the least of which is that the season lasts for 82 games, not one month; those who wonder why Ginobili was "snubbed" in this year's All-Star voting may want to look at what his numbers were when those votes were cast and when the coaches selected the reserves. In any case, as Popovich said, Duncan is the hub of the Spurs; Tony Parker does not win the 2007 Finals MVP without Duncan attracting a lot of defensive attention (and shutting down the Cavs' offense in the paint, sparking numerous fast break opportunities for Parker and the other Spurs). Ginobili had 17 points, five assists and five rebounds against Dallas, shooting 6-20 from the field; he does not have to be great every night for the Spurs to win because he plays alongside Tim Duncan--and it is easier for him to be great precisely because of Duncan's presence. Real MVP candidates--like Bryant and LeBron James--play at a very high level consistently, not just for brief stretches of the season.

Nowitzki led Dallas with 28 points but he shot just 5-15 from the field, scoring most of his points from the free throw line (17-21). He also had six rebounds. New Mav Jason Kidd had seven points, 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals but Dallas Coach Avery Johnson made a very curious decision, sitting Kidd out for the last :34 of the fourth quarter. The Mavs had the ball and only trailed 96-94 at that point. After the game, Johnson said that he wanted to spread the court with shooters but the Mavs did not get off a good shot the rest of the way. Kidd responded diplomatically, saying, "They've been together down the stretch. I understand what play they're looking for, so I'm over here cheering for my guys to knock down a 2 or a 3," but TNT's Charles Barkley cut to the heart of the matter: "There's no sense in making the Jason Kidd trade if you aren't going to play him in crunch time." He also termed Johnson's move "stupid." Barkley is absolutely right; the Mavs brought Kidd in to be a difference maker in crucial situations because he makes such good decisions and passes the ball so well. If he does not know the Mavs' plays, now is a better time to learn them then during the playoffs and, as TNT's Kenny Smith mentioned, there is no point guard in the NBA better at creating something out of a broken play than Kidd.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:05 AM

6 comments

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6 Comments:

At Saturday, March 01, 2008 2:50:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I love Ginobili. A tough player, and he has a knack for coming up big in clutch situations. However, people who are trying to compare him to Kobe based on recent per-40-minute stats don't know what they are talking about.

Nice to see that at least someone remembers Dirk's clutch play during the 2006 playoffs. I think his reputation as a choker is a bit undeserved.

 
At Saturday, March 01, 2008 10:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

The stats guys love Manu and I read stuff all the time purporting to prove that Manu is as good (or nearly as good) as Kobe. If Kobe's finger holds up I look forward to watching Kobe guard Manu in the Olympics in a situation where Kobe will not be depended on to score and he can just lock in defensively. It won't be quite like MJ and Pip taking out Kukoc in 1992 but it should be interesting.

As for Dirk, at one time, Dirk also had the longest run of 30-15 playoff games since Kareem in the 1970s. I'd take Dirk's playoff resume over KG's in a heartbeat but KG will have an opportunity this year to perhaps alter that verdict.

 
At Sunday, March 02, 2008 12:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

manu is not as good as kobe but he is great still. of course on the olympic team kobe going to kill the americans are way superior to the rest of the world as far as talent is concerned. manu is hella of a player though he dfeintely no lebron or kobe he is great though.

dirk nowitski is a soft mentally weak player he plays great in meaningless games and yes in the 2006 playoffs in the nba finals dwayne wade ran circles around him and totally out played him in clutch moments. he is great but in the clutch he is not mentally tough enough to get it done. thats why jason kidd needs to be out there to close games for them and in the 07 playoff dirk layed a egg and showed no heart letting the warriors out play them in the clutch and in the series. he is not clutch player so what he had the most 30 and 15 games in a row im sure it wasnt agianst san antonio or utah or the lakers or pistons he did it agianstphiladelphia and the grizzlies and sacramento. dirk has to prove himself when it counts larry bird always did this was never a question for the legend he is no larry bird.

 
At Sunday, March 02, 2008 1:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Dirk's 30-15 streak was a playoff streak, not a regular season one--and he did it in 2001 and 2002 against Duncan's Spurs and KG's T-Wolves. Here are his numbers in those four games (the only other player with such a streak since 1970 is Kareem, who did it in 1970 and again in 1977): 42-18, 30-15, 31-15, 39-17.

Dirk has also been a great performer in seventh games, the ultimate pressure cooker. In the 2003 playoffs, he had at least 30-10 in consecutive seventh games, a feat only accomplished by Pettit, Wilt, Elvin Hayes, Bird, McHale and Hakeem. His career record in seventh games is 3-0, including a win over Duncan's Spurs in the 2006 Western Conference Finals. Dirk had at least 30 and 11 in each of those games, averaging 32.7 ppg and 15 rpg and leading his team to victory each time.

Dirk has averaged 25.2 ppg and 11.1 rpg in 82 career playoff games, exceeding his regular season averages in both categories. Tim Duncan is the gold standard for power forwards and I'd take him over Dirk in a heartbeat but just for comparison purposes it is worth mentioning that Duncan's career playoff averages are 23.8 ppg and 12.5 rpg. Obviously, Duncan's defense is vastly superior to Dirk's. All I'm saying is that Dirk has been an outstanding playoff performer for most of his playoff career.

You cannot be that productive as a scorer and rebounder in the biggest games without having a lot of skill and a lot of heart. We all know that Dirk and the Mavs fell short in 2006 and 2007 but those failures do not wipe all everything else that he has accomplished.

 
At Tuesday, March 04, 2008 2:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie


you got me maybe im wrong a little i still dont trust him in a big spot in the championship sereies and last year he folded quick. he's a goood player not as good as people think he is he can be dominant but the reason they got kidd was to finsh the thing off he couldnt.

 
At Tuesday, March 04, 2008 4:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

If you look at any great player's resume you can find a bad playoff game or even a bad playoff series or two. Remember MJ's commercial about how many shots he missed?

Dirk's overall playoff resume is pretty good, but of course most people will not think of it that way until/unless he wins a championship.

 

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