Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki's 48-point effort Tuesday night left ESPN's analysts searching for adjectives to capture the amazing performance.
Game analyst Mark Jackson: “Dirk Nowitzki, you're the greatest shooting 7-footer of all time putting on a clinic.”
Game analyst Jeff Van Gundy: “If I'm Serge Ibaka, I'm naming my first born Dirk. This has been unbelievable … There should be a national holiday in Germany.”
Studio analyst Michael Wilbon: “If I say Larry Bird, is anybody offended? It was just that Bird-like.”
Studio analyst Magic Johnson, who competed against Bird: “He's shooting off one leg, off two legs, he might have had three legs as well as he was playing.”
The Thunder tried Serge Ibaka and a variety of defenders on Nowitzki to no avail.
Studio analyst Jon Barry: “Tonight he was an equal opportunity employer. Anybody they put on him, he just abused them.”
Even Thunder TV announcer Brian Davis got in on the act on the Fox Sports Oklahoma postgame show: “You could have put Andre the Giant on him tonight and he still would have gotten 48 points.”
Van Gundy had suggested that the Thunder put Thabo Sefolosha on him, which they did briefly.
“I always felt that the quicker, rangier players had the best chance (against him),” he said.
The Thunder also didn't have an answer for speedy guard J.J. Barea, who had 21 points in 16 minutes and made Nate Robinson look bad when he looked away for an instant.
“He's been putting on an absolute pick-and-roll clinic,” Van Gundy said. “He's going to town.”
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook's dismal 3-of-15 shooting performance drew a lot criticism — even from the ESPN studio crew, which had made a pact not to criticize him after his triple-double performance Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies. “The pact was over at halftime,” Wilbon said.
“He has got to be much better,” Barry said. “This (Dallas) zone is going to be hard to break. They are going to turn him into a jump shooter. That's not his strength.”
* ESPN's No. 1 game crew of play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, Jackson, Van Gundy and sideline reporter Doris Burke turned in another excellent effort. Viewers need to hope that Jackson and Van Gundy don't get head coaching jobs in the league.
* Credit the NBA's excellent access policy for allowing ESPN to get shots of Thunder coach Scott Brooks addressing his team before the game and at halftime. Before the game he said, “You guys have earned this opportunity with your work. Nothing changes for us. Play hard, play for each other, play with your instincts and we'll have success.”
* In the pregame show, Johnson predicted that Barea would earn a triple-double, Barry predicted Jason Kidd would get a triple-double and Wilbon said Westbrook would be two rebounds short of a triple-double. Johnson said Westbrook needed to get 25 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds. “He must be active tonight. He has to keep the tempo up in order for Oklahoma to get in the transition.”
* At halftime, Johnson said Westbrook needed to play smarter and get the ball more to Durant, noting Dallas had done a good job of feeding Nowitzki. “If my man is hot, let me get Kevin Durant more shots. If I'm not hot, let's get my teammates more shots. He's not being aggressive.”