Thunder's goal: Stop Dirk Nowitzki
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki is not a cocky dude. He's a humble superstar, but there's no doubt that he possesses a superstar's swagger.
It's something Nowitzki developed in the latter half of his career. It's evident in the way the Dallas Mavericks' 7-foot power forward embraces being the focal point of the offense, no matter who is trying to defend him.
"For this team, I've always got to be in attack mode," Nowitzki said. "It doesn't really matter who's on me. This team usually relies on me to score, so really the last couple of years, I've been attacking no matter who's on me.
It doesn't really matter who's on me. This team usually relies on me to score, so really the last couple of years, I've been attacking no matter who's on me.” -- Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki
"That's the thing about being a go-to guy. It doesn't really matter who the defense is on you. You've got to be able to attack, get to your spots and get your shot up."
So it doesn't matter whether it's Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden or anyone else on the Oklahoma City roster. If they're one-on-one against Nowitzki, he'll try to either shoot over them or drive past them.
And, as we saw during Game 1, he'll usually succeed.
Ibaka admitted getting taken to "class" by Nowitzki, but so did the rest of the Thunder's defenders. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Nowitzki scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting against Ibaka and 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting against the rest of the Oklahoma City roster.
Of the 24 points Nowitzki scored from the free-throw line -- without a miss, setting an NBA record -- eight came after being fouled by Ibaka.
"You're going to have to give up something," Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said. "But I'd rather take away the best player on their team and make a role player make plays. I think that's what you have to do in the playoffs.
"I'd rather take away Dirk and make somebody else beat us. If we can make DeShawn Stevenson or Shawn Marion take most of the shots, or whoever else it might be, just try to get the ball out of Dirk's hands."
Nowitzki's attitude definitely isn't selfish. In fact, he trusts his teammates more now than at any time since Steve Nash departed for the Phoenix Suns. He's become a good passer out of a double-team over the course of his career.
So the Thunder can get the ball out of Nowitzki's hands if they double. But if they don't, it doesn't matter who defends him.
"One thing we can't do is leave guys on an island by themselves guarding Dirk Nowitzki, a future Hall of Famer, and expect one guy to stop him," Perkins said. "We've got to figure something out. We've got to at least show help or dig and get back. We're going to figure something out once we watch film, but it's definitely going to be a different game."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.
2011 NBA PLAYOFFS: MAVERICKS VS. THUNDER
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