Last night, we might have witnessed the quietest 40-point performance ever by Kevin Durant -- the night belonged to Dirk, and Dirk alone. Scoring 48 points on only 15 shots is mind-boggling until you realize Oklahoma City put Dirk on the line 24 times, and Mr. Nowitzki did not waste a single point from the charity stripe. Dallas Mavericks are still 7 wins from putting their past failures to rest, yet for the first time in many years, Dallas has the right to be optimistic -- especially when Dirk feels that no one can guard him without walking away with a couple extra fouls to their name. Jeff Van Gundy even went as far as to say, “Serge Ibaka should name his firstborn son Dirk.” To think Dirk was 34 out of 37 total shots; that’s something I would boast about if I were alone in a gym shooting shots inside the paint.
Let’s also not forget that both of the shortest Mavericks scored over 20 points. One of the most entertaining parts of last night’s game was watching J.J. Barea go head-to-head with Nate Robinson. I have no idea what was going through Scott Brooks' mind when he put Nate out there to try and guard Barea. Maybe he thought J.J. Barea’s lack of height was his advantage, and if he put a man with similar size on him, they could prevent Barea from running all over them. Clearly, Brooks was mistaken because we saw J.J. Barea just terrorize Nate Robinson and easily find his way to the basket in the limited 6 minutes the two matched up, while Nate went 0-3 from the field. This really got me wondering how amazing J.J. Barea would be if he could play in a six feet under league because after yesterday, I think Barea would be dropping 50 every night.
Despite the 48-point outburst and over 50% shooting, Oklahoma City had its chances to win this game, and that has to feel good for the Thunder going in to game two. But that still does not ease the mind from thinking if there is anything the Thunder can do to stop Dirk. Durant said it best when asked why Dirk was so good: “he’s 7 feet and shoots fadeaways.” It’s that simple, yet that amazing.
Looking forward to tonight, I can’t wait to see how the Heat will respond. It is amazing how so many sports writers are already calling this a must-win for the Miami Heat when the game is in Chicago, but the judgment of Lebron’s mental toughness is clear in these statements. The public still does not think Lebron can come through when his back is really pushed against the wall. Lebron James cannot just win to make doubters into believers, but he needs to almost lose first. So let the hate continue tonight, and I hope we see some more Taj highlights!