Mavnalysis: This Hasn't Been Dirk's Year
The Dallas Mavericks lost on Sunday, this time by a 136-103 blowout score in Houston. Again.
Dirk Nowitzki -- the icon who, when healthy and fed remains one of the finest offensive basketball players on the planet -- didn't take enough shots. Again.
Eight field-goal attempts in Houston. The game Dallas had to win to avoid inching closer to mathematically elimination from the playoffs ... and he got eight shots.
"It's not pretty, but I think there is some pride left on this team," Dirk said, reflecting on Dallas' all-but-gone playoff chances. "I've never quit in my career, so I'm not going to start now."
"Not quitting,'' we assume, means not opting to "shut it down'' -- though while that might not happen this week, it doesn't preclude the Mavs eventually doing so.
More eight-shot games for Dirk, and they might as well.
History tells us this is the symptom of a blowout … this marks the 17th instance in Dirk's career that he's played at least 25 minutes and taken eight or less shots. The Mavs are 10-7 in those games, either winning by an average of 14.5 points, or losing by an average of 18.3.
Only one of these games was decided by five points or less: a three-point loss to the Kings back in 1999.
So yes. When the franchise is right, Dirk can take just eight shots in a given game because it's probably because his teammates are crushing the opponent without him.
But with this bunch? What happened Sunday, whether a result of a defense imposing its will, an offense inept at getting the ball to its most lethal weapon in advantageous situations, or a player simply continuing to display the selflessness that defines a portion of his greatness ... Dirk taking eight shots doesn't feel like a recipe for success.
"Dirk Nowitzki needs to take 18 to 22 shots a game,'' Fox Sports Southwest analyst Bob Ortegel tells us, adding, "and he needs to touch the ball substantially more than that. It's got to go through him.''
It did, for a moment there in Houston. At first, he seemed unneeded as the Mavs scored 33 points in the first quarter … Dirk Nowitzki attempted only one shot.
In the second quarter, Dirk was more involved, taking the same number of shots as Mike James: a team-high of four.
In the third, Dirk got three attempts.
With the game already decided, he did not play in the fourth.
By the end of the game, six players had as many or more field-goal attempts than the team's best offensive player, including: Shawn Marion (13), Mayo (9), Jae Crowder (9), Vince Carter (8), Mike James (8), and Brandan Wright (8).
Again, circumstances dictated some of this, but when your backup poing guard (James) has as many shots as your best player … well, that's not ideal. Through no particular fault of his own, Mike James is what he is: Too old. Lacking in quickness. Too small. The beneficiary of a couple of 10-day contracts that bleed into him being a fixture in the rotation. Part of the mishmash of point guards here that this season has included Collison, Roddy B, DoJo, Cunningham, Fisher,
And note that not all the distortion comes from Dirk's inactivity in the fourth. The fourth quarter was handed in its entirety to the Dallas reserves … and Carter, Marion, and Mike James also sat the entire quarter
Dirk did tie for the team lead with four assists, as he reacted to double teams by often making the prudent basketball decisions and finding open teammates. So one can make the argument that he had some touches. But it's hard to feel great about the Mavs chances when Dirk finishes the game with only eight shot attempts.
And when history remembers this season, it won't remember it as a year when Dirk got touches or got shots or got to lead a team. It will be known -- and will deserve to be known -- as Eddy Curry's team, as Chris-Douglas Roberts' team, as Derek Fisher's team, as Troy Murphy's team, as Mike James' team.
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