The beliefs of many have been shattered this postseason. For years those who are less knowledgeable but rather vocal have been quick to defame and tarnish Dirk Nowitzki. They were quick to blame him for the Dallas Mavericks’ playoff missteps. Labels of soft and choker were pinned upon him. However, that will not be the case any longer. Of course he will have his detractors, those who refuse to give any amount of credence to his game, but they will be ignored as conventional knowledge has accepted Nowitzki’s game finally. Better late than never.
Game Four against the Oklahoma City Thunder will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoff history and it was fueled by Nowitzki. With 5:08 left in the fourth quarter the Mavericks were down 15 to the Thunder, who were, along with the crowd, celebrating wildly. If only they knew how premature their celebrations would become. Dallas rattled off a 17-2 run to tie the game in regulation forcing overtime. Nowitzki scored twelve of the 17 points including two free throws, after Nick Collison was finally called for a foul on him, to tie the game as ice coursed through his veins. He would go on to tally 40 points for the game.
To those naysayers who have always jumped at the opportunity to throw the first stones at Nowitzki after a playoff defeat Game Four was an affront to their beliefs. They were left reeling like Harold Camping when the Rapture never came. This was Nowitzki’s second 40-pint outburst during the series, he scored 48 in Game One. He became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 Finals to have two 40-point games and shoot 60 percent or better in those games. Those are just a few more marks on Nowitzki’s bloated playoff résumé.
This postseason, as the nation has an opportunity to re-acquaint themselves with Dallas’ future Hall of Famer, Nowitzki has put on a clinic. Not only that, but he his making a case for the best clutch performer in the league. Those with knowledge know that Kobe Bryant does not perform well with the game on the line. Nowitzki’s Efficiency Rating in the clutch is an astounding +62.7. That is almost double both Dwyane Wade‘s and LeBron James‘ ratings. His rating skyrockets while his turnover ratio plummets to zero. Nowitzki does not turn the ball over in the clutch. This does not mean that his defenders are not trying to wrest the ball from him. They most certainly are only to the tune of sending him to the line 29.3 times during the last five minutes of a close game.
Not only in the closing minutes of a game as Nowitzki been key but in the fourth quarter he has thrived all season including the playoffs. Against the Thunder he has scored 46 points in the fourth quarter. He had 10 points in Game One, 16 in Game Two, and 10 in both Games Three and Four. In the final frame he has shot a combined 58.6 percent.
Nowitzki means everything to the Mavericks. That is why they made their strongest push to resign him last summer, foregoing the circus that engulfed much of free agency. In these playoffs, Nowitzki has shown why he is so valuable. When he is on the bench, the Mavericks’ offensive rating drops from 114.44 to 98.63. Their rebounding percentage drops from 50.3 to 42.9 and their true shooting percentage goes from 59.3 to 51.2. Those are just a few of the declines, and there are many, that Dallas experiences when Nowitzki sits.
Now that the media has flooded its coverage of the Mavericks with the amazing statistics that Nowitzki has put up throughout his career, the haters, detractors, and those who just had no clue have run out of ammunition. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best players in this generation. Period. There can be no questioning that. He is a lock for first ballot Hall of Fame induction. The scrawny kid from Würzburg, Germany has become an unstoppable force. He now sits just one win away from returning to the NBA Finals. A return trip will give him the opportunity for vindication and possibly revenge. As he has shown all postseason, he does not miss his opportunities.