On Dirk Nowitzki (Game 1, 2011 West Finals)

Well, this came out of nowhere.  Two teams that engaged in solid defense down the stretch met, and the result was a wild 121-112 back to the 80s shootout.  The numbers coming out of this were incredible.  Kevin Durant scored 40 points on 18 shots, had a TS% for the game of 75.9% and was not even the sickest performance on the court.  That of course was Dirk Nowitzki’s historic 93.9% TS day scoring 48 points on 15 shots.  (24-24 from the line)  There have been a lot of ways to put the game in perspective.  Indeed, the TS% is one way.  Another one I liked was the idea of points per miss.  However, in the history of brutal individual efficiency, what if we add in turnovers to Dirk’s performance.  What this means is that Dirk, could have (theoretically) scored 58 points between the turnovers, and shot attempts.  He got 48 of them, for an 82.8%.  For some perspective Kevin Durant with his 18-19 FT, 18 FGA, and 3 turnovers scored 40 out of 61 points, or 65.6%.  Indeed, below are the percentage of possible points scored for the top 10 scorers in the league this season, and a few other interesting names sprinkled in.

  1. Kevin Durant: 2161 points, 1538 FGA, 675 FTA, 218 TO = 4187 possible points = 51.6%
  2. LeBron James: 2111 out of 4201 = 50.2%
  3. Carmelo Anthony: 1940 of 4023 = 49.0%
  4. Dwayne Wade: 1941 of 3894 = 49.8%
  5. Kobe Bryant: 2078 of 4347 = 47.8%
  6. Amare Stoudemire: 1971 of 4061 = 48.5%
  7. Derrick Rose: 2026 of 4305 = 47.1%
  8. Monta Ellis: 1929 of 4157 = 46.4%
  9. Kevin Martin: 1876 of 3571 = 52.5%
  10. Dirk Nowitzki: 1681 of 3075 = 54.7%

Really Nowtizki is well clear of the field in the ability to not waste chances to score.  Indeed scoping random names in the Top 20 you see Paul Pierce at 53.3% and see just how rare an air he is.  Dirk does not create for his teammates by passing them the ball per se, but he does it by not hogging scoring chances.  It is a talent that exists in negative space, so it’s not fun or sexy – the ability to not do something.  But it is considerable and last night it was on display for the nation.

But, as for the game in total – is there anything of consequence which can be gleaned?  Unlike Game 1 in the East, a lot here did not go to script.  Neither defense will be very proud of its performance.  Both of these teams have shown offensive chops, but in a reasonably paced game (only 93 possessions, around league regular season average), both teams had sterling PPPs. (to put it another way, no team this season average 1.1 points per possession, both teams flew past 1.2 last night).  Oklahoma City gets to the line more than anybody, and sure enough they got 43 free throw attempts in the 93 possessions, which obliterates their season average, while Dallas got to the line a ton 36 times compared to their more piddly .241 per possession (basically they got to the line 14 more times than normal in this game).  Both teams shot well and made their threes – really neither Oklahoma City’s physicality nor Dallas’ zones made any real impression on the other’s offense.

Will this continue?  Oklahoma City we know will keep drawing fouls at this rate, but can Dallas keep it up?  Obviously, officials have something to do with it, but the Thunder’s inability to keep Dallas off the line was huge.  Of course nobody expects Dirk to shoot like this, but the Mavericks are a jump shooting team – it is the non-jump shots that the Thunder need to be worried about.  Dallas got the win, but it is hard to envision them creating contact at yesterday’s rate – even if Dirk can make those midrange jumpers til the cows come home.


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