Dirk Nowitzki proves he’s still got it, Mavericks defeat Clippers


Dirk Nowitzki is one of the most timeless players in NBA history, and he proved that yet again on Wednesday night as the inspired Dallas Mavericks and their hostile fans defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 108-118. Of course, everyone knows that Dirk has a skill set that is perfect for transitioning into the final stages of a player’s career, but at 37, it’s normally fair to think there may be some signs of slowing down in terms of offensive output and efficiency. Though that hasn’t remotely been the case, and Wednesday night was a prime example.

Besides the boos and chants against DeAndre Jordan spewing from the crowd, and the constant instigation from the media with DeAndre devil masks in the papers, there was actually some basketball taking place between the Clippers and Mavericks.

Dirk has never been the best defender and he’s never really had elite athleticism either. However, he’s put together a Hall of Fame career with unquestionable skill and the best perimeter shooting from a seven footer that the league has ever seen.

The three point stroke, the automatic mid-range jumper, the signature high-knee, one-legged turnaround step-back; he’s simply unstoppable when his shot starts falling. And as he led his Mavericks to a surprising win over the Clippers, we saw a glimpse of that vintage Dirk.

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His scoring was balanced throughout the game, and he showcased his typical quick release and immediate instinct to shoot when he has enough space. With almost all of his shots coming from mid-range or beyond the perimeter, Dirk was still able to go 11-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-6 from three point range. As a result of his hot-hand — despite the efforts of the Clippers — he finished the night with 31 points and nine rebounds as well for good measure.

It’s not news that Dirk still has something left in the tank. His minutes per game have declined in recent years to reduce some of the pressure and strain on his knees and ankles, and that’s helped preserve his talent even further. In 2010-11, he led the Mavericks to a championship and was crowned Finals MVP, and after averaging 34.3 minutes per game that season that number has slowly dwindled to the mark of 27.6 for the current season.

However, despite his playing time decreasing, the offensive production, and especially the efficiency, has still been there. After another stellar performance against the Clippers, he’s now show shooting 55.3 percent from the floor and 51.6 percent from three to average 18.9 points per game this year. Even if it’s just an eight game period to start a season, those are still incredibly good numbers for anyone to record. As for a 37 year old? No other veteran can do that right now. But that’s exactly what Dirk Nowitzki can still do.

Nov 11, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) looks to pass as Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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So, who had the pleasure of guarding Dirk on his best night of the early 2015-16 season? Blake Griffin. How fun it must have been for him to watch those fading jumpers effortlessly soar over his outreached arms.

Griffin’s defense has improved from when he entered the league, and while he may not be the best rim protector when it comes to blocking shots, he’s still a vastly improved defender in the post. In fact, he held opponents below their average shooting percentages from multiple areas of the court last season. He used his incredible quickness to contest away from the basket by holding opponents to shoot a slight 1.1 percent lower than normal from over 15 feet out, and most importantly he improved in the paint, and held players to 1.8 percent below average within six feet of the basket (per NBA.com’s Player Tracking).

He looks more aggressive in the post now, he sticks with his man, he bodies up well, and he uses his strength to keep big men away from the basket even if he doesn’t excel at blocking shots when they get past. Yet, against Dirk Nowitzki with a hot hand, there was nothing he could do against that signature step-back jumper.

Even with All-Defensive first team center DeAndre Jordan on him, Dirk’s high release and deadly accuracy was still too much to handle on Wednesday.

The Clippers simply got out-shot all around by the end of the night. Wesley Matthews added 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go alongside Dirk’s big night, and the Mavericks made 55.3 percent of their field goal attempts in comparison to the Clippers’ mark of just 43. Dallas moved the ball well and stepped up later in the game to outscore L.A. by 11 in the second half.

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To make matters worse, J.J. Redick was also forced to leave the game due to back spasms after playing only 13 minutes. In his absence, the likes of Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford only shot a combined 5-of-19. The rare struggle of Paul, and the far more common struggle of some of the second unit, was yet again an issue for the Clippers.

The key factor for the Mavericks, though, in a game that meant so much to their fans, the media, and especially the emotional and unforgiving Mark Cuban, was Dirk Nowitzki being vintage Dirk Nowitzki. He showed that he’s still got it, and that even though some of his defensive weaknesses have become more apparent with age, his all-time great scoring ability ages just as well as anyone’s we’ve seen.

In another season as the great face of his franchise, Dirk is off to yet another great start.