Dallas Mavericks Nowitzki celebrates hitting a three-point shot in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball playoff in Dallas

Can the Thunder slow down Dirk Nowitzki?


He has been the best player in the playoffs so far —26.5 points per game on 49.7 percent shooting, 60 percent from three. He destroyed Pau Gasol in the second round.

And outside of hiring Jeff Gillooly, there may not be a good way for the Oklahoma City Thunder to slow down Dirk Nowitzki. Not that there really is a way to stop a seven-footer shooting one-legged rainbow fadeaways, but the Thunder are not well equipped to do the things that would slow him down.

During the two regular season meetings between these teams when Nowitzki played, Jeff Green got a lot of time defending Dirk. That didn’t really work. This season, when Dirk was on the floor against the Thunder, the Mavericks offensive rating was a ridiculous 131.7 points per 100 possession, as reported by our own Rob Mahoney pointed out at his Mavericks blog The Two Man Game. (For comparison, Denver had he best offense in the NBA this past season at 112.3 points per 100.) That’s not all Dirk, but the Thunder need to slow him down.

Expect Serge Ibaka to get the first shot Dirk, but he may end up in fast foul trouble if not ineffective. Serge wants to block shots, be aggressive. Nowitzki will throw a series of jab steps, head fakes and get the eager Ibaka off balance, then take advantage.

After that, look for Nick Collison, who had a better series against Zach Randolph than Ibaka did. Collison is physical enough to push Dirk out of his favorite spaces, but Nowitzki also has a lot more weapons at his disposal and better range than Randolph.

The stats guys at ESPN proposed three things the Thunder can do to slow Dirk: 1) Pressure him all the way out to the arc, don’t give him an easy inch of ground to work with; 2) Double him but only when Peja Stojakovic and other great outside shooters are not on the floor; 3) Don’t foul him.

And all that might not be enough.

It’s overly simplistic to have the Mavericks/Thunder series boil down to Durant vs. Nowitzki. A lot more will go into this series. But whoever’s superstar can be more consistent gives his team a big advantage.

And Mahoney adds that may well be the Mavs.

What does is the fact that Nowitzki has more easily initiated ways to attack defenders (low post, high post, iso on the wing, pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop) than Durant. KD’s alleged troubles to get open and receive passes are very real; he may be one of the most brilliant scorers in the league, but against heavy defensive pressure, his touches can be limited. He’s more susceptible to double-teams. His influence can be hindered by encouraging Russell Westbrook to shoot. Dallas simply has more avenues to derail Durant than OKC does to limit Nowitzki, a point which gets lost in the Durant vs. Marion and Nowitzki vs. Ibaka framework.

Is Stephen Curry the Lionel Messi of the NBA?

Lionel Messi
Leave a comment

Stephen Curry has reached the transcendent point in his career. We’re now talking about if he has passed LeBron James as the best player on the planet (he has), and we’re starting to think about his legacy as the perfect point guard for a modern NBA small-ball, space-and-pace offense. Plus he’s just a joy to watch play.

Does that make him the Lionel Messi of the NBA?

Curry was asked to compare himself to the Barcelona/Argentinian player who (arguably) is the greatest soccer player in the world, certainly as elite a finisher as that sport has ever seen. Here is his answer, via the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia. Is Curry the bigger international star now?

“I don’t know – it’s a chicken and egg kind of conversation,” Curry said while laughing.

“We both have a creative style, a feel when you are out on the pitch or the court. I’m trying to do some fancy things out there with both hands, making crossover moves and having a certain flair to my game and that’s definitely the style Messi has when he is out there in his matches.”

I love Curry, but Messi is the bigger international star.

But I love the comparison in terms of the must-watch nature of the two stars, the flair in their games, the sense that you have to keep an eye on them at all times because the spectacular could happen any time they touch the ball. When the ball comes to them, everybody leads forward in their chairs. That is the sign of a real superstar.

Jahlil Okafor fights man in Boston (video)

Jahlil Okafor

The 76ers lost a heartbreaker to the Celtics last night, dropping Philadelphia to 0-16.

Jahlil Okafor was apparently in a foul mood after the game.


We’re told everyone got up and fled the scene and no arrests were made.

We’re told the altercation began because one of the men in the other group yelled at Jahlil, “The 76ers suck.”

We spoke with a rep for Jahlil who tells us … Okafor says he was being heckled from the moment he left the club and felt threatened because people swarmed him on the street.


This video obviously doesn’t show everything, but it certainly makes Okafor look like the aggressor.

Okafor will probably face punishment from some combination of the legal system, NBA and 76ers.

Kristaps Porzingis envelops Victor Oladipo’s dunk attempt (video)

Nikola Vucevic, Kristaps Porzingis
Leave a comment

Scott Skiles moved Victor Oladipo to the bench, because the Magic coach wanted to give Oladipo a chance to be more aggressive.

It worked.

Oladipo scored a season-high 24 points in the Magic’s 100-91 win over the Knicks.

But Oladipo’s aggressiveness also produced this fantastic Kristaps Porzingis block: