Donuts: How Dirk, Mavs Perform In Close-Outs

Sunday Morning Mavs Donuts: Want to get stat-head smarter about tonight's Mavs-at-Miami Game 6? Come inside and be amazed to learn how the Mavs and Dirk perform in close-out-opportunity playoff games ... As if The UberMan needed any more inspiration from 'Mr. Ignorant' and 'Mr. Childish' ...

DONUT 1: The road has yet to wind it's way to a destination, but signs have begun to countdown the final miles, to promise the next hill climbed may grant a vision of where this 2010-11 NBA season is to find its conclusion. With an serendipitously timed offensive explosion, the Dallas Mavericks took their first lead of the series and moved one step further than the franchise has ever been, taking three games in the championship round, within one win of capturing that elusive ring.

What comes next? What will be be given tonight? And who will do the giving?

DONUT 2: Some may claim the Mavs are incapable of duplicating their remarkable shooting from Game 5, including hitting 13 of the 19 3-pointers attempted (good for 68.4 percent), and they may be correct. However, in labeling this as the reason Dallas should rein in their hopes for a title, three traits of this series, and these teams, are being casually overlooked. To wit ...


DONUT 3: First, buried in the shooting performance from the Mavs, is the fact that Miami also had what has been easily their best offensive performance of The Finals; scoring 10 more points than they had in any of the previous four contests, besting their top shooting rate by 6.3 percentage points (and out-shooting their complete playoff average of 44.4 by 8.5 percentage points), and getting 40 points from their bench, 13 more than the previous high of 27 in Game 1, and more than double their playoff average.

For each of those categories (scoring, team field-goal percentage, bench scoring), Miami set new highs for the 2011 playoffs.

In other words, it may be fair to label the Mavs performance an outlier (a concept we believe we crushed in Friday's Mavs Donuts) ... yet the same can be said of the Heat. If your argument is based on the fact that Dallas cannot repeat such an accomplishment, it's fair to say the same of Miami.

So everybody is an outlier. Or neither is. Same diff.

DONUT 4: Next up, remove the offensive explosion for both teams, and you're left with the first four games of the series. By keeping the score manageable, Dallas was able to see the series tied at 2-2 by constricting their defense in the final half of the fourth quarter, leaning on their superstar, and finding a chance to win the closing moments.

Games 2, 3 and 4 all came down to shots at the buzzer. Two of those three games, the Mavs found the win, without the need to shoot 56.5 percent from the floor, or 68.4 percent behind the arc. Amidst games characterized by their defensive prowess, Dallas did not wilt. Instead, they held close and were one makeable fadeaway from sending their only loss in the trio to overtime.

DONUT 5: Finally, there is the best, or at least the most effective player the Heat has encountered in these playoffs:

Dirk Nowitzki.

We're not talking about the latest fuel to stoke his fire, his "Mr. Ignorant and Mr. Childish'' barbs thrown in retaliation at the arrogant Heat juveniles Wade and James. We're talking numbers here, history here.

Through 15 games and three rounds, only once had a member of the opposing team registered the game high in scoring against the Heat. Back in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Kevin Garnett scored 28 points to lead all scorers. That was it.

But this is The UberMan we're talking about.

DONUT 6: In only five chances, Dirk has been the game-high scorer three times in The Finals: Game 1 (27 points), Game 3 (34 points), and Game 5 (29 points). For the series, Dirk has averaged 27 points, including 10.4 in the fourth quarter alone (compared to 2.2 for LeBron James and 8.0 for Dwyane Wade … meaning Dirk is scoring more than the duo combined). In a Finals that's been so close in three of its games, he's provided whatever difference currently separates the teams, and granted Dallas their 3-2 lead.

As you see and here, he's rather dialed in. ...

DONUT 7: We've long celebrated the greatness of Dirk Nowitzki in many ways, including: We WEAR Dirk Nowitzki.

"The UberMan'' is the standard, the original. A Mavs legend. And since the middle of this year, when Dirk took to the microphone and coined the phrase "Take That Wit Chew!'', this is what all the kids are wearing ...

We've even arranged to have it available in the Mavs Fan Shops! But you can get it here, answering the question Dirk asked us when he first saw the design:

"Fish, where can I get one of those?''

Dirk got two. Get however many you need right now in the Mavs Store!

Anyway, now the world (and the Heat) are getting their eyefulls (and maybe their TAKE THAT WIT YOU shirts!)

DONUT 8: Sidebar (and then back to Dirk-as-Closer): Want to stay in touch with the Mavericks at all times?

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And tonight, immediately after the game, if you want to watch a MAVS POSTGAME SHOW instead of the network's "Mr. Ignorant & Mr. Childish Show,'' flip over to FoxSports Southwest ... Fish and Nancy Lieberman as the studio analysts, Mark Followill and Ric Renner on the ground in Miami ... home coverage of the home team tonight on FoxSports Southwest!

DONUT 9: If the Dirk is the difference, can he be depended on to once again provide that victory-delivering gap with the chance to eliminate the Heat at hand? Though the history of this Dallas team has continued to prove its irrelevance, let's take a quick look at what Dirk has done throughout his career in games in which the Mavs held the opportunity to win a series.

Nowitzki has played in 19 games with the chance to eliminate an opponent, winning 12, including the last six in a row. Of those 19 chances, 12 have come on the road, where Dirk's teams have been victorious on seven of those occasions, including the last four in a row.

In these close-out games, his averages of 25.7 points while hitting 50.8 percent of his shots, 41.3 percent of his 3-pointers, 92.5 percent of his free throws and grabbing 11.1 rebounds; all show a slight increase from his career playoff averages, other than a 0.3 drop in points scored. This would seem to imply he is not crushed by the pressure of the moment, but continues to play at the levels that delivered him the opportunity to put away a team in the first place.

DONUT 10: Perhaps more pertinent to Sunday's Game 6 is how Dirk has performed in the three games he's entered in these playoffs with a chance to end another team's season, where the Mavs have not provided their opponents with a renewed sense of hope, standing at 3-0, with only the Portland victory coming on the road, as it must against Miami.

In these three games, Nowitzki is averaging 25.3 points on a 60.5 field-goal percentage, including 50 percent of his 3-pointers and 100 percent of his free throws to go with nine rebounds per game. Worth noting in both his points and rebounds is the fact that the Lakers' game was all but over by the third quarter, meaning Dirk was not asked to carry his accustomed offensive load (note his 17 points), and thus played seven to eight minutes less than he did against either Portland or Oklahoma City.

DONUT 11: What are we learning here?

From this, we can see that Dirk does not shy away from the pressure, nor has this team allowed opponents to repair an often broken or dying hope. In fact, with Dirk on the court, Dallas has never lost a series after putting themselves in position to eliminate their opponent. They have lost games, and been pushed to seven, but never failed to emerge victorious to move on to what awaits … in this case, a championship.

DONUT 12: So will it be easy? We've seen "easy.'' It will not be that. If Dwayne Wade has to fake injury (or even cause injury, as Jason Kidd's buckling knee knows all too well), "Mr. Childish'' will do so.


Miami will not be a replica of the Lakers in Game 4, when Los Angeles appeared to surrender to the inevitable and give up (along with cheap shots of their own, natch), and nothing may be taken for granted, but the Mavs have reason for optimism. Trends are made to be broken, but history tells us Dallas does not lose once fighting their way within a game of series victory.

Needing only one win to claim the first championship in their franchises history, they must hope this can continue. One win stands between them and the ultimate glory none on their roster has tasted, despite treading remarkably close.

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