Dirk Nowitzki, the 2006-2007 NBA regular season MVP, 10 time NBA All-Star and four time All-NBA first team member, still doesn’t have an NBA title. With every playoff exit, and there have been ten consecutive playoffs exits at different stages of the post season over the last 10 years, it seems his last chance just expired. He’s still here, at 32 pushing at 33, with just over 1100 career games with the Mavs (playoffs included), giving it another wonderful go.
28 Points, 14 rebounds, that was his stat line in Dallas’ 96-94 win in game 1 over the Lakers in Los Angeles to open their Semi Final series, their first post season meeting since 1988. More impressive were his 11 fourth quarter points, pulling the Mavs ahead just in time after beginning the fourth quarter seven points behind. As his regular season numbers and minutes drop in recent years (23 points per game, his lowest since 2003-2004 in 34.3 minutes, his lowest since his rookie year), his playoff form stays the same.
Nowtizki’s playoff numbers – 27.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game so far in this post season. He had his best game in the closing game of the Blazers series, scoring 33 points in Portland to seal the deal. His career playoff numbers? 110 Games, 25.7 points per game and 10.7 rebounds. His scoring average is 10th all time in the post season and 4th among active players, trailing LeBron James (28.9), Tracy McGrady (28.5) and Dwyane Wade (26.2). Kobe Bryant, just for you knowledge enrichment, is 11th, with 25.5. Michael Jordan is 1st with 33.5.
Still, as impressive as he might be, Nowitzki is still without a title. Doing some web-reading, even if the Mavs manage to beat the Lakers, they aren’t considered favorites to win the title. Even the West. The ‘Losers’ tag has stuck to this team, and stuck hard. Four first round exits, twice while having the home advantage since 2000. The two most painful and remembered – The collapse against the Heat in the 2006 Finals and the 2007 first round shocker against the Warriors. Nowitzki had his worst post season performance against the Warriors, averaging 19.7 points per game. The Mavs entered the series with the best record in the league (67-15). Those scars don’t heal.
So Nowitzki can’t take a team on his back alone, so what? He’s still great. He proves it time and time again. Since becoming the Mavs star player, they haven’t missed the playoffs. This is their 11th consecutive appearance, never winning less than 50 games in the regular season. It’s the teammates around him that never step up to his level. I’m not saying he hasn’t had his meltdowns, going back to the 2006 Finals series. Still, I find it hard to blame the main reason for the Mavericks being so good in the last decade for their playoff failures.
And that’s why I wasn’t so excited about his performance last night against the Lakers. We know he’s clutch, we know he’s money. It’s the other guys that stepped up. Nowitzki will deliver every night. Not on defense, at least not too much. It’s the rest of the Mavericks that need to keep up with him.