Commentary

Nowitzki, Durant test differently

Updated: May 21, 2011, 6:03 PM ET
By Ryan Gomes | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

I've matched with both of them before.

With Dirk Nowitzki, he's crafty enough that he's not a guy you can force one way or just get into him physically. When you do try to get physical, he knows how to handle the contact, as you saw Thursday in Game 2. On the perimeter, you want to close out to him because you know he's a knock-down shooter, but everyone's instincts -- I think anyone who guards anyone when closing out -- is to put your hands on him. Thursday, they called maybe three or four fouls in that third quarter when Dirk was just catching and driving on a close out. As a defender, your natural instinct, especially as a big man like Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins, is to put that hand out.

Durant
Durant
Nowitzki
Nowitzki
Dirk can put it the ground. He's not just a stand-still shooter. And then you have to honor his pump fake and you have his up-and-unders. It's a very difficult assignment.

With Kevin Durant, you just have to try to keep a body on him at all times. Oklahoma City's 's bigs set great screens, and Durant moves well without the ball. When he comes clean off a pin down, there's really nothing you can do. You can't alter him. You've got to try to keep a body on him and try to make him put it on the ground. Once he gets it and rises up, there's really no way to defend him. What can you really do with a guy that's 6-foot-9, catches it and then turns a corner looking into his jump shot? He's so tall, and he's extremely athletic. You have to do the work before he gets the ball.

Durant has been a great scorer since he came into the league, and you can't force him to do one thing, just like you can't force Dirk into one thing. I think the best way to guard Durant is to try to make him put it on the ground. Make him make multiple counter moves. If he has to put it between his legs or crossover two or three times, then he's exhausted in his dribble. From there, as a defender there's a good chance of altering his rhythm and disrupting his plan offensively.

Then you have to keep him off the line. Dallas did it well in Game 2. Durant took the same amount of shots he normally takes from the floor, but went to the line only three times. That limits the damage he does from a scoring standpoint. Durant is going to take and make his shots, but you have to make it tough.

But whether it's Durant or Dirk, sometimes you can't do anything when you get a hand in a guy's face and he's making shots over you. You're playing good defense, you're not sending him to the line, you're making him take a tough, contested shot. As an individual defender, at this point in the season you need a certain will. You just have to be able to keep fighting, without getting discouraged.

Ryan Gomes is the starting small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers and is offering insight for ESPNLosAngeles.com throughout the NBA playoffs.

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