Too Hard to Guard

02.08.09 10 years ago 35 Comments
Dirk Nowitzki (photo. Monte Isom)

After You-Know-Who and You-Know-Who-Else, who would you say is the single toughest player in the NBA to guard? We might have to go with Dirk Nowitzki. As Dime’s Austin Burton wrote a couple months ago about the fourth-leading scorer in the League: “From 25 feet and in, he’s a consistent finisher with a plethora of moves (best up-fake in the League) that make him a lethal scorer against any defender (best fadeaway in the League). Whoever is in front of him, Dirk can drop buckets and create mismatches. Ask the Bulls about that, as Dirk dropped 44 points (16-34 FG, 11-11 FT) on ’em last night, 14 of it in overtime of the Mavs’ win. Even more impressive was that Dirk did it mostly without Jason Terry and Josh Howard around to divert Chicago’s attention; Terry left the game after breaking a bone in his left hand, and Howard spent a lot of time on the bench in foul trouble. Vinny Del Negro was throwing all kinds of defenses and a variety of defenders at Dirk, but nobody could do anything with him. He hit three straight J’s to open up overtime, then iced it with free throws in the final seconds … Jason Kidd is finally starting to look his age in the face, but Derrick Rose made him look his age on the court. Kidd made some big plays here and there — like sticking the OT-forcing three with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter, hitting another big three in OT, and handing out 10 assists for the game — but Rose (22 pts, 9 asts) was blowing past him easy even when Kidd played off him several steps … We haven’t heard yet how long Terry will be out, but we’re assuming it will be for a while. Not only do the Mavs’ playoff hopes take a big hit (they’re only two games up on 9th-place Phoenix), the injury also opens the door for somebody else to take the Sixth Man award, which is Terry’s to lose. Nobody — not even Manu Ginobili — has been better coming off the bench this season … You know how D-League teams will sometimes wear the same unis as their NBA affiliates? That’s what Nets/Nuggets looked like, at least from Denver’s side. Getting beat badly in every facet of the game, the Nuggets looked like they were still in training camp mode while the Nets were gearing up for the playoffs, moving the ball with a Spurs-like precision and getting wide-open shots whenever they wanted in a 114-70 laugher … Devin Harris led NJ with 28 points, while Carmelo (15 pts) was the only guy in blue who could have passed for a legit NBA player; one time ‘Melo got Vince Carter on a step-back move (with a little Jordan-on-Russell shove) that had Vince running from the free throw line all the way out of bounds on the baseline after ‘Melo had stopped. As ‘Melo canned the jumper, Vince kept his head down like he was hoping nobody saw him …

Tracy McGrady (photo. Marc Morrison)

If you haven’t picked up on the formula when Yao and Al Jefferson go head-to-head, here it is: Big Al puts up big numbers, Yao walks out with the win. Yesterday Jefferson went for 36 points and 22 boards in a loss, his team’s sixth straight to Houston. The Wolves blew it during a 17-2 Rockets run covering the third and fourth quarter, sparked by Rafer Alston hitting a couple threes and Yao (30 pts) scoring inside … Post-game quote from T-Mac: “[We’ll win] if we play with that type of energy, scrambling, helping each other on defense, covering for one another. That’s what we do, that’s who we are.” Think about that and then watch the play in the first quarter when Kevin Love passed out of a Yao/Scola double-team to Jefferson on the wing. While Al seemed kind of surprised that nobody was within five feet of him and hesitated, T-Mac, who was the closest Rocket, just stood there and watched. And when Jefferson finally made a move toward the basket (which resulted in a layup), T-Mac actually backed away from him. We missed the scrambling, covering for one another part of that sequence … Two ways you can look at Detroit’s overtime win in Milwaukee: Glass half-full, the Pistons finally got a good game from Allen Iverson (27 pts, 9 asts), Rip Hamilton (38 pts) and Rasheed Wallace (27 pts, 7 threes) at the same time, put up 120-plus points even with Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun struggling to make shots (combined 4-for-21 FG), and pulled out a tough road win. Glass half-empty, the Pistons were taken down to the wire by a team that’s decimated by injuries — i.e., the Bucks are starting Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at two-guard — and the backcourt got torched by Ramon Sessions (44 pts, 12 asts), who wasn’t even starting a couple months ago … After Sessions hit a couple free throws to put the Bucks up by one with 45 seconds left in the extra frame, A.I. got the lead back with a step-back mid-range J, and after Keith Bogans missed a jumper, Rip hit two free throws to make it a three-point game. Richard Jefferson missed a three with six seconds left, and Rip hit two more from the stripe to seal it … Rough night for Zaza Pachulia: In the second half of Hawks/Clippers, he got crammed on something nasty by Al Thornton, one of those dunks where Thorton flew into the paint so fast and dunked so hard, his momentum almost made him bite it on the landing. Later in the half, Zaza was playing help defense when Baron Davis shook Acie Law with a behind-the-back dribble, then in the same motion threw the ball between Zaza’s legs before recovering it flipping in a layup. And finally, Zaza’s team got blown out (at home) by the Clippers … If you missed it yesterday, the Lakers traded Vlad Radmanovic to the Bobcats for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown. We were just talking about how Morrison had gotten his minutes jacked by D-League call-up Cartier Martin, signaling that his future in Charlotte was bleak. When he gets decent PT, Morrison’s not terrible. He can be a Wally Szczerbiak-type shooter/scorer off the bench for L.A., but this was probably more of a money move than anything; the Lakers get out from under Vlad’s long-term deal, helping them re-sign Trevor Ariza and possibly Lamar Odom this summer … We’re out like T-Mac’s help D …

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