“I thought we played him well,” said Thunder center Kendrick Perkins. “He hit some contested shots.”
Amen. Ibaka's defense wasn't awful. Nowitzki wasn't standing around wide open. He hit a bunch of tough shots and made two dozen free throws. Keep making him shoot tough shots, cut those foul shots by two thirds, and Nowitzki is human again.
I know, easier said than done. And I have no grand suggestions for Brooks. No one else has any idea what to do with Nowitzki.
“I don't care what they do,” said Mav sharpshooter Jason Terry. “We know what to do with him. That's the key. Give him the rock. Feed him and fan him.”
The Thunder has lived this before. Last series. They gave up 34 points to Memphis' Zach Randolph in Game 1, and no one within 100 miles of Bricktown thought the Thunder could contain Randolph. But it did.
Truth is, Nowitzki's been doing this to the Thunder and most everyone else in the NBA for a long time. People who say this isn't the old Dirk have it all wrong. These aren't the old Mavs.
That's not Erick Dampier at center. Leave Tyson Chandler open, and an alley-oop dunk is guaranteed. Plus, Terry has some fellow long-range marksmen. Jason Kidd. Back-from-the-dead Peja Stojakovic. The ridiculous J.J. Barea.
You've got to guard those guys. You can't double-team Dirk. Not much, anyway.
“We haven't double-teamed anybody all year,” said the Thunder's Nick Collison. “If you double-team, there's a price to pay.”
So what to do? I don't know, and neither does Brooks.
“It's tough,” Collison said. “He really had it going. Do a better job, hope he misses some shots.”
There's that word. That's how you defend Nowitzki. It's really how you've always defended him. Pick a defensive strategy, play it well, play it hard and hope.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.