Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FTR ORR TOR
Dallas 92.0 94.6 45.8 15.7 28.3 15.3
Indiana 106.5 49.4 18.4 34.1 13.0
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- [11:26, 1st] – Brendan Haywood catches an entry pass from Vince Carter in the high post, and awkwardly anchors the offense from the elbow. He doesn’t panic, but does immediately look to get the ball to Dirk Nowitzki, who has been waiting patiently in the right corner. Nowitzki makes the catch on the wing, and immediately moves toward Haywood for the ever unconventional 4-5 pick and roll. He slides around the pick, but there is no roll, and no dribble penetration whatsoever; tucked behind Haywood’s screen, Dirk elevates for a jumper that leaves both David West and Roy Hibbert at arm’s distance. The ball splashes through the net, and drips with confidence.
- [10:52, 1st] - Carter inbounds the ball to a flaring Rodrigue Beaubois, who looks to initiate the offense from the left wing. So around an impromptu Haywood screen he goes, and upon entering the paint, Beaubois hits a revving Shawn Marion on the opposite side for a driving counter from the right. Three Pacers are drawn to him, choosing to suffocate Marion’s runner rather than stick to their respective assignments. Nowitzki, who had been waiting at the top of the key, is the beneficiary.
- [8:26, 1st] – The high pick and roll is a staple of virtually every team’s offense, and the Mavs have the luxury of running that play action with a wide variety of player combinations. On this occasion, Carter looks to work to the left side of the floor with Nowitzki acting as the screener. David West hedges early to deflect that action, allowing Paul George plenty of time to recover back onto Carter. However, that pick-and-roll set has effectively functioned as a beautiful guise for a Nowitzki iso; West’s recovery left a perfect window for an uncontested entry pass, allowing Dirk a clean catch and a chance to face up without the threat of a double team. He pivots forward. He measures up West. He stunts and then rises, launching a jumper over West’s vertical extension that seeps through the net.
- [7:05, 1st] – In a classic Maverick set, Nowitzki sets a pin-down screen for Marion, who cuts upward from the corner for a curl. Danny Granger flows under Nowitzki’s screen to pick Marion back up on the other side, but Dirk immediately steps up to the elbow to collect an easy pass. This is where Carter — who had made the feed to Nowitzki from the right side of the floor above the break — throws in an interesting twist. V.C. muscles his way through Paul George toward West, setting an undoubtedly illegal screen for Nowitzki. George eventually scrambles out of Carter’s vicegrip, but like so many defenders before him, he’s too late. The shot is gone, and the points belong to Nowitzki.
- [6:18, 1st] - Dallas is set to inbound the ball from under the right side of the basket with Marion as the trigger man. Brendan Haywood, Carter, and Delonte West stack on the right side of the paint, but Nowitzki stands somewhat out of formation at the center of the free throw line. Haywood cuts under the rim and Carter darts to the right corner, but both movements are mere decoys; Delonte West slides up to the elbow to set a surprise screen for Nowitzki, and David West has the odd notion to go underneath it. Perhaps he was playing for time, and thought an attempt at a furious close-out would be his best option. Perhaps he thought he’d play the odds with this season’s Nowitzki, and challenge Dirk to take the jumper. Perhaps David West had lost his mind, or at least temporarily misplaced it. Regardless of West’s reason for taking the long route on defense, Nowitzki was able to catch and fire from the right free throw line extended without incident.
- [11:26, 2nd] – The Pacers need to rest Danny Granger at some point in this game, but also need George — their top perimeter defender — to stick Jason Terry. That leaves Dahntay Jones with the tall order of defending Lamar Odom on the block, a matchup that the Mavs quickly identify and seek to exploit. As Odom begins posting up on the left wing, Nowitzki creeps toward Terry out on the perimeter for a quick pick and roll. Tyler Hansbrough commits to the hedge too quickly, Dirk slips underneath, and JET balks. Rather than run the pick and roll with Nowitzki, Terry drops an entry feed to the now-posted Odom, who quickly finds Nowitzki slinking toward the rim. Dirk elevates to finish with his oddly favored left hand, and easily finishes despite Hansbrough’s downward swipe on his left shoulder.
- [9:37, 2nd] – Nowitzki’s been waiting for this one. You could see him aching with every quick release over the last few weeks, frustrated with his inability to find this one particular momentum-changing gem in his game among all others. But here it finally was: the potential for that glorious, trailing, transition three sitting right in his paws. No Pacer defender was within a 10-foot radius. No knee swelling nor conditioning issues could deter him. It was just a stationary basket, a shot in a vacuum, and a seven-foot German waltzing into one of his favorite looks.
- [7:50, 2nd] – They can’t all be pretty. A quick Nowitzki jumper from the right wing meets the backboard and the back of the rim before tracing a perfect mini-arc and front-rimming in. It’s precisely what Dirk had in mind upon release, no doubt: a brilliantly scripted miniature Rube Goldberg machine in jump shot form, with every bounce and carom a meticulously planned element in his sequence.
- [6:52, 2nd] – Dirk trails in transition again, but the pull-up three-pointer just isn’t to be this time; Nowitzki accidentally shares a transition lane with Carter, and ends up jogging into a hand-off and screen just inside the three-point arc. From there, Hansbrough — the only defender in Nowitzki’s immediate vicinity — is hapless. The rhythm J rattles home, and Nowitzki returns to the defensive end with such nonchalance that you’d never believe he had struggled with that very same shot just a few days prior.
- [5:28, 4th] – Nowitzki again makes a catch at the top of the key, but at this point, West has had enough. He’s seen jumper after jumper tossed in over his outstretched hand, and has no intention to let Dirk rise into his shooting motion undeterred. Nowitzki goes into his usual face-up routine: he establishes his pivot foot, rotates, wards off his defender with his elbows while holding the ball over his head, and then sinks down into the triple threat. West takes a quick swipe at the ball and manages to knock it free, forcing Nowitzki to clumsily recollect the ball as it bounces through his legs. He finally does, and again initiates his sequence: pivot, rotate, elbows, triple threat. West swipes — swing-and-a-miss. He swipes again. No dice. He swipes a third time, and Nowitzki takes advantage of his lunge with a quick drive to his left. West is still able to body Nowitzki throughout, and meets him on the lower left block. Nowitzki then freezes with his back to the basket before spinning into a beautiful fadeaway and a deep David West sigh.
- [4:07, 4th] – Rick Carlisle manages to see opportunity in everything, and it’s for that reason that Dallas’ guards play such an essential — if unconventional — role as screeners in the Mavs’ offense. On this particular sequence, Jason Terry sets the crucial down-screen for Nowitzki on the right block, allowing Dirk to come up to the elbow and make the catch in one of his favorite spots on the floor. Hansbrough goes around the screen to meet Nowitzki on the other side, and manages to establish defensive position before Dirk can square up his jumper. As a response, Nowitzki puts the ball on the floor and swings to his right, shifting his back to Hansbrough and drawing Granger’s defensive attention in the process. That leaves Carter — Granger’s defensive assignment — curiously open out on the perimeter. Nowitzki makes the right pass out to the open man, but Carter quickly looks to re-establish Nowitzki back in the post. The trust is there, as Carter waits for Nowitzki to seal Hansbrough before dropping him a perfect entry bounce pass. Nowitzki bumps, he plants, and he rises from the dead, ascending from the flames with an impossibly angled one-footed fadeaway.