Dirk’s Historic Night Hides Disturbing Trend for Thunder

Don’t get me wrong, the story here is Dirk. When you shoot 12-15 from the field, set a NBA record by going 24-24 from the free throw line and drop 48 points in game one of the Western Conference Finals, you should be the story. Today, the story is Dirk, his ranking on the all-time list, his hall of fame status, his comparisons to Larry Bird etc… But what are we missing? What is Dirk’s historic night hiding?

“I bet the whole house Westbrook won’t shoot 3 of 15 again,” Kevin Durant said in his post game press conference. “Quote me.”

KD35 may want to stay out of the real estate business. Westbrook has shot 28% (17-59) in four games against the Dallas Mavericks including last night’s western conference final: (via hoopdata.com)

  • 11/24: (4-13)
  • Facilitate young fella!
  • 12/27: (5-15)
  • 1/6: (5-16)
  • Last night: (3-15)

Now let’s take a look at shots by location in four total games against the Mavs: (via hoopdata.com)

  • @ the rim: (10-22)
  • from 3-9 feet: (1-12)
  • from 10-15 feet: (2-7)
  • from 16-23 feet: (4-15)
  • from 3: (0-3)

Westbrook prides himself on putting his head down and getting to the rim. In the regular season, he shot 60% on shots at the rim. In four games against the Mavs, he is shooting only 45% (10-22). Tyson Chandler is more agile than most 7 footers in this league and his constant presence near the rim has affected Westbrook’s performance. In four games, Westbrook is shooting  11-34 (32%) from 9 feet and in.

For a speedy, slashing type point guard like Westbrook, these types of numbers likey cause him to settle for outside shots. That is a win for the Mavs. From 10-23 feet, Westbrook is only 6-22 (27.2%).

There is obviously more to the Mavs win than just Dirk shot well and Westbrook did not. We all know Dirk is going to get his. Dirk can average 40 in this series and the Thunder can still win. It was not so much that Dirk dropped 48 on the Thunder, but the way in which he did it — high shooting percentage, getting to the line and staying inside the three point line.

The Thunder need to come up with a defensive game plan that gets Dirk out of his comfort zones. Have Serge meet Dirk at mid-court, push him to where you want him to shoot. Have the defense dictate the offense, not the other way around. If you are going to double, double hard and rotate fast because the Mavs have shooters at every turn.

If the Thunder bigs can’t keep up with Dirk, I would focus my attention away from him and figure out a defensive strategy to stop J.J. Barea and Jason Terry from hurting you. Let Dirk get his. One man can’t beat you. Even with Dirk’s 48, the Mavs needed every one of J.J. Barea’s 21. I don’t expect 20 from Barea every night.

Now, Dirk can drop 40 a night and the Thunder can still prevail, but Westbrook can not shoot 28% for the series and expect his team to move on. Despite having the greatest scorer in the world at his side, Westbrook’s mentality is score first. Shooting 28% while averaging 20 shots a night hurts your team. In four games against the Mavs, Westbrook’s assist to turnover rario is 2.2/1. Good. Not great.

The bottom line is Dirk’s stat line last night was so impressive, so rare, so beautiful, that it will likely overshadow today’s story lines. Russell Westbrook may get a free pass from the media today, but not from this blogger!

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