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OKC Thunder: How will the Thunder fare against Dirk Nowitzki?

The Thunder had no luck no matter who guarded Dirk Nowitzki last year; will these playoffs be any different?
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: April 27, 2012

In Game 1 of last year's Western Conference Finals, Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki assembled the most efficient scoring line in the history of the NBA playoffs.

He finished with 48 points and took just 15 shots from the field.

No matter who the Thunder threw at Nowitzki defensively — Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, even guards Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden — all were mere mortals against the 7-foot, 245-pound German who tortures defenders both inside and out.

One way to measure overall scoring efficiency is to use true shooting percentage, which takes into account field goals, 3-pointers and free throws to give an overall measure of how efficiently a player scores.

The average true shooting percentage over the previous 15 postseasons was 53.3 percent. Nowitzki's true shooting percentage of 93.9 in Game 1 was the highest ever calculated, by far.

Nowitzki finished 12 for 15 from the field and set a playoff record by going 24 for 24 from the free-throw line. He also pitched in six rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots.

For the series, Nowitzki shot 55.7 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from 3-point range, 96.7 percent from the free-throw line and also found time for 5.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in the Mavericks' 4-1 series victory.

As fate would have it, the Thunder will end up facing the world champion Mavs in back-to-back playoff series — as the No. 4 seed last year in the conference finals and as the No. 2 seed this year in the opening round.

Though Nowitzki's stats are down a tad from last season thanks to a slow start in a delayed NBA season, he remains a scary proposition to all who defend.

During the regular season last year, Nowitzki averaged 6.1 free-throw attempts per game. In last year's playoff series against the Thunder, he doubled that average at 12.2 free throws per game and converted 59 of 61 at the line.

“We put him on the free-throw line way too many times,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said Friday. “He's an amazing player, but we have to defend him without fouling him.”

Who will (attempt to) guard Nowitzki in this year's playoff series, which starts Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at Chesapeake Energy Arena?

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