DALLAS - With stubble on his cheeks and resignation in his voice, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t look or sound anything like a dominant player determined to prevent one of the most embarrassing, stunning upsets in NBA history.
Maybe he was sapped by the long flight back from Oakland and film session that immediately followed. Or perhaps the listless appearance was just further proof of how much the Golden State Warriors have flustered Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks while winning three of the first four games in this first-round series.
Whatever the reason, the expected league MVP talked Monday about being ready to shrink from the spotlight even more than he already has in Game 5 Tuesday night.
“I got to take what they give me and they don’t really give me a lot,” said Nowitzki, who is averaging 20 points and has yet to score more than 23. “So I’ve got to make other stuff happen — help out on defense more; hit the glass harder, as hard as I can, get some extra possessions; if I have a shot, try to knock it down and if I don’t, move the ball and let someone else make a shot.”
Nowitzki rarely boasts. Talk of “fitting in” is more typical than predicting a big game.
Yet would Michael Jordan talk about passing more when his shot wasn’t falling? Did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar focus on rebounds when his sky hook was missing the mark? And how many titles did their I’m-going-to-score-no-matter-what attitudes produce?
The answer is enough to explain why coach Avery Johnson was angered by Nowitzki’s comments, which are typical of his attitude throughout this series.
“I’m tired of hearing about how they’ve taken him out of his game and any lack of confidence. You’re just not supposed to have that, all right,” said Johnson, perhaps the team’s most intense player even though he’s no longer playing.
And if he doesn’t see it?
Nowitzki proved he’s capable of taking over a big game during last year’s playoffs. After leading Dallas past San Antonio in a tense, second-round series, he pushed the Mavs past Phoenix in the conference finals by scoring 50 points in Game 5 of a tied series, then took over the second half of the next game, clinching a spot in the NBA finals.
The Mavericks wound up losing to the Miami Heat, but came back so focused this season that they won 67 games, among the most in league history — and 25 more than the Warriors, who needed a 9-1 finish just to make the playoffs.
Dallas had winning streaks of 17, 13 and 12 games, so three in a row to win this series certainly isn’t asking for much, except for one nagging detail: Golden State is 6-1 in the head-to-head series, including the game that ended the Mavericks’ longest winning streak.
PBT: The Spurs saw the NBA title slip through their fingers Tuesday night. Do they have it in them to rebound from their meltdown in time for Game 7?
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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