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For Mavs to Beat Spurs, Nowitzki Must Beat Father Time

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    DALLAS, TX - APRIL 28: Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks takes a shot against Boris Diaw #33 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 28, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.

    Dirk Nowitzki has missed 40 of his 65 shots against the Spurs.

    The Mavs enter Wednesday night’s Game 5 in San Antonio tied 2-2.

    When Dirk finally finds his stroke the Mavs have a real chance to upset the NBA’s best team and win the series.

    Wait, Dallas’ Hall of Famer will play better, right?

    That the Mavs have hung this close to the Spurs without a breakout game from their star is amazing. The potential for a game in which he finally tops 20-plus points is compelling.

    What I see is the Spurs — specifically 7-foot defender Tiago Splitter — daring Dirk and his 35-year-old legs to drive to the basket. Splitter crowds him, getting inside No. 41’s jersey. It’s a savvy strategy, because at this point Nowitzki hasn’t solved it.

    He’s still got the legendary array of jabs and fakes and subtle hints that create a sliver of space through which he can squeeze jumpers and legendary Flamingo Fadeaways. But you can count on one hand the times this series Nowitzki has taken more than one dribble on a drive to the basket.

    He’s an all-time great shooter. But against the Spurs’ defense, he’s also deteriorated into a stagnant shooter.

    Like it or not, Dirk’s got to dribble. To at least keep San Antonio honest. For the Mavs to win the series they’ll have to steal another game in San Antonio. And for that to happen you have to believe Dirk will have to produce a 25- or 30-point game.

    “They’re forcing me to play off the dribble,” Nowitzki said after Dallas’ Game 4 loss. “It’s not any secret at this point I’m not the greatest driver anymore. They’re just taking my airspace away. That’s what the good teams have done over the last few years.”

    Like a boxer robbed of his mobility, the Spurs have Dirk trapped in the corner and are bludgeoning him with body blows. His best game of the series was Game 4, when he scored 19 points on only 7-of-19 shooting. For the first time in his career he’s been held below 20 points in four consecutive playoff games.

    A 50-percent shooter in the regular season, he’s at merely 38 against San Antonio. He’s made only one 3-pointer the entire series and in Game 4 he missed two free throws. No way around it, Nowitzki’s having the worst playoff series of his career.

    So far.

    And for the Mavs to accomplish something great, Dirk’s gotta be much better.

    A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.