It’s difficult to imagine a greater performance by opposing players in one playoff game.
Dirk Nowitzki was all but unstoppable, dropping 48 points in Dallas’ 121-112 win over Oklahoma City in Game 1 of the western conference final on Tuesday night. Kevin Durant was just as magnificent with 40 points.
One thing is clear after watching that game. Oklahoma City is going to have to find a way to limit the rest of the Mavericks. Nowitzki is going to get his. The 48 points wasn’t even a playoff career high for the 7-footer. Nowtizki has scored 50 in a playoff game. So there’s no doubt what he can do.
The rest of the Mavericks can’t be allowed to go crazy. Dallas shot 53 percent from the field. Jason Terry had 24 points and JJ Barea had 21 points of the bench. The Thunder can’t allow everyone to get open looks.
Nowitzki, who went 24-for-24 from the free throw line, was feeling it early and often. And he took advantage of every player who guarded him with an assortment of spins moves and step-back jumpers.
“My team was feeding and feeding me,” said Nowitzki. “I had some matchups with smaller guys and I was able to take advantage.”
Could this be the year Nowitzki emerges? He’s always been regarded as a great player, but he’s never quite been put in the same category as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, etc… Nowitzki has scored 40 or more in playoff games six times. Considering the stakes, this game was probably the best of them all.
As for the Thunder, Durant was on his own. Russell Westbrook had 20, but he shot just 3-for-15 and had four turnovers. Shot selection has always been an issue for Westbrook. If he can keep it under control and get more of his teammates involved, it will be easier on Durant.
The visiting Thunder will get a chance to answer the Mavericks tonight (Thursday) on ESPN at 9 p.m.