Everyone’s Tough In The West, And Now Dirk Nowitzki Has Found His Shooting Stroke

Dirk Nowitzki
Getty Image

The Dallas Mavericks clinched the 7-seed yesterday, and could face a number of teams battling it out for the second spot in the West. But some of them those teams battling for the 2-seed might want to hold on because Dirk Nowitzki says he’s “back” where he wants to be after a rough patch in March. A deadly Dirk makes the Mavs a much more difficult out when the playoffs start next weekend, even if this will be the first season since 1999-00 where he doesn’t lead the team in scoring.

In March, Dirk shot just 41.7 percent from the field, his lowest monthly output of the season. But in six games in April, he’s shooting over 51 percent from the floor even if his three-point shooting (ironically the opposite of his overall shooting at 52.2 percent in March) has dropped to 36.8 percent. Regardless, he’s averaging more points per game (19.5) than he’s averaged since the beginning of the season, and the Mavs need him if they’re to have any chance of upsetting their first-round opponent.

Via ESPNDallas.com, comes Dirk’s current comfort shooting the rock:

“A lot better than December and January,” Nowitzki said after scoring 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the win over the Lakers. “That was a stretch where nothing seemed to go. Didn’t feel great moving up and down, so I think I worked myself back where I wanted to be coming toward the playoffs.”

Right now, it’s Monta Ellis who gets the calls when the Mavs need a bucket, but that high screen by Dirk is still the first step in most of their offensive sets, and certainly when defensive acuity intensifies in the playoffs. Rajon Rondo knows this better than anyone.

“It’s a great sign for us that he’s caught a rhythm,” Rondo said. “He’s been able to shoot the ball extremely well, get to his sweet spots and make teams pay.”

Outspoken owner Mark Cuban wants more, even if he applauds how amazing Dirk has been for his Mavs franchise:

“I’d like to see him more aggressive,” Cuban said before the game. “I think he’s got more than he thinks. But Dirk is amazing in every way, shape or form. I keep trying to tell him what my dad says: Today’s the youngest you’re ever going to be. Play like it. As opposed to thinking what you can’t do, at least try. I’d like to see him do more, but obviously that’s easier for me to say than him to do.”

It’s not Dirk’s team anymore. It’s Rick Carlisle’s with a smattering of Monta and Rondo — the latter of whom finished with a stat line against the Lakers on Sunday that’s more reminiscent of his time as an All-Star in Boston: 11 points, 11 dimes and eight rebounds.

Despite the need for the backcourt of Monta and Rondo to play well, the fortunes of the Mavs still lay with the lanky German, and if he’s feeling it over the next month, whoever snags the No. 2 seed might regret their push for a higher spot.