Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki. (Photo: AP Photo/Mike Stone, Pool)
So it seems Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki can be guarded after all.
That was certainly the appearance Oklahoma City gave in downing Dallas in Game 2 of their Western Conference finals series on Thursday night. After being blistered by Nowitzki for 48 points in Game 1, the Thunder came up with the formula to at least slow the Mavericks 7-foot perimeter shooting all-star en route to a momentum shifting 106–100 win in Dallas.
The Thunder, with Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison leading the way, got the Dallas finesse player off rhythm by being physical with him and forcing the ball out of his hands. Oklahoma City also didn’t give up a bunch of touch fouls, which paved the way for Nowitzki to convert 24 of 24 foul shots in game 1. He attempted just 10 on Thursday and actually missed one.
Nowitzki still scored 29 points on the night, but he was a non-factor through three quarters of the game. The 10-time all-star made up for lost time in the fourth where he scored 16 points in a losing effort.
“We just wanted to challenge him on his shots and hope that he missed them,” said Collison in the Daily Oklahoman. “We did a better job helping from the weak side, and it gave us more confidence to get into him knowing that if we did get beat off the dribble we didn't have to foul him because there was help coming. I think that helped us a little bit.
“The guy's still tough. He scored a ton down the stretch when they needed it. But we did enough early, I think, that we were able to get a win.”
The key will be if the Thunder can keep it up when game 3 heads to Oklahoma City on Saturday. A win at home could completely turn this series around for Oklahoma City. A large part of that will be continuing the formula of physicality with Nowitzki.
Contact Terrance Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org