Dirk Nowitzki is everything you’d want in a franchise player – can score from anywhere, rebound and is like by every teammate – but he isn’t known as a clutch scorer. That’s the only thing missing from Nowitzki’s vast resume of skills. That should all change with the Mavericks’ five-point win over the Lakers. Nowitzki – combined with sixth man Jason Terry – to score 22 of Dallas’ last 23 points.
With 3:18 reaming, Nowitzki hit a jumper to dampen the hopes of the Lakers for a comeback. His jumper extended the Mavericks lead to six points. Nowitzki scored when it mattered most and his reputation as a late-game choker is totally undeserved. It could be justified that Nowitzki, early in his career, was not a clutch performer. Especially the way the former NBA MVP performed in the 2006 Finals against the Miami Heat and in the first round of the playoffs in 2007 against the Golden State Warriors, it is hard to argue against his reputation of being a big-game choker. But in the twilight of his career Nowitzki has proved to be a reliable clutch player as the Lakers found out last night.
The Mavericks ageless point-guard Jason Kidd scored 14 points and a game-high 13 assists. His presence has eased the pressure off Nowitzki. Kidd has improved his three-point shooting and as a result has caused defenders to play him tightly out on the perimeter. His improved shooting has opened up the driving lanes for Kidd. Kidd’s veteran savvy and smarts has the Mavericks at the cusps of another NBA Finals appearance.
The acquisition of center Brendan Haywood and small forward Caron Butler is working pretty well for the Mavericks. They are 5-1 since the trade. Haywood more than held his own against the Lakers young center Andrew Bynum. He blocked five shots and grabbed nine rebounds. Haywood is a perfect fit for the Mavericks since former starter Erick Dampier is slow, can’t shoot and so lazy that he makes Garfield look good. His work on the boards adds a new dimension to the Mavericks that Erick Dampier couldn’t provide.
Butler did not play against the Lakers because of a negative reaction to medication. His return to the lineup will provide the Mavericks versatility. He can slash to the basket with his left hand and ahs a slippery step-back jumpshot that is difficult to block.
Come playoff time, the Mavericks will be one difficult team to play against. They are loaded at all positions and have experience to boot. And as they proved against the Lakers – they are an elite team