Monday, January 24, 2011

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Dirk Nowitzki is hurting. It's obvious. Watching him right now is like watching him during his rookie season - limited to just a jump shooter and nothing else. He isn't rebounding well and he can't seem to get any lift on any of his awkward fade-a-ways. It's painful to watch.

But he had to come back. Worse than watching Dirk struggle with his knee was watching the Mavericks struggle without him. The New Jersey Nets were a perfect bounce back game after being ransacked in Chicago. They didn't have the defenders to throw at Dirk. Sure, they have Kim Kardashian's boyfriend but not even her intoxicating derriere sitting in the front row could provide ample defense (or distraction).

Except it did. Once again, Dirk struggled to get any lift on his jumper. He was short. He was off-left. He was off-right. He even had an air ball (which makes me struggle to recount any previous Dirk air balls.) It looked like the Mavericks were doomed to once again fall to an inferior opponent because Dirk's teammates failed to step up. The saving grace was that Dirk realized he was struggling and forced himself to the free throw line (eight times, in fact)

After Devin Harris shot something that only in theory could be described as an actual basketball shot, the Mavericks had one more chance. I honestly was worried. Usually this is Dirk time. Give him the ball at the high post, right at the free throw line. Let him back his defender down and draw the double. Or drive facing the basket, spin and fire. We've seen it before, and it's glorious. But for once I wasn't so sure. Dirk was 6-for-23. He was flat. I almost wondered if the Mavericks should use Dirk as a decoy and get an open look for someone else.

How stupid am I?

Dirk, of course, promptly took the ball and used one of the best pump fakes the NBA has ever seen and rattled home the game winner with exactly six seconds left on the clock. New Jersey couldn't recover as their final possession could of been best watched with the the Benny Hill song playing in the background. It might be a one-point victory over one of the worst teams in the league. It might have been one of Dirk's worst shooting nights. But don't down yourself in the negatives. Just know that Dirk is the Dallas basketball messiah and his resurrection in the final seconds on a cold night in New Jersey was, well, biblical. Let's just hope he's back for good this time. And never doubt his crunch-time abilities again. Lesson learned.



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