DAR Sports: Dirk Nowitzki's 2011 Playoff Run

By Da Hoop Panel

Today, we take a look back at the infamous 2011 run by Dirk Nowitzki. Let's get into it. 

Nick Andre

Dirk Nowitzki became a man amongst boys in the Dallas Mavericks’ 2011 championship run. Throughout the entire postseason, Dirk allowed everyone to remember that he was still an MVP caliber player and did so by putting up monster numbers. Throughout the previous five years, it was a difficult task for Dallas to get over the hump out west after the team’s 2006 Finals appearance. In the process of the run, Dirk was able to secure his first and only championship ring.

*First Round

Let’s look into the first round against Portland, a team who still had optimism, but their chances for improving were out the window. Dirk averaged 27.3 points per game and shot 39% from the floor (not his best performance but still). Early in the series, Blazers big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby played physical with Dirk, allowing him to work for his opportunities on offense. With his versatility to play anywhere on the floor, Dirk found a way, which lead to an impressive 33 point effort in a Game 6 clincher to move on to the next round. 

*Second Round

Fast forward to the Semifinals against the two time defending champion, Los Angeles Lakers. Many people had Dallas winning, but not in the fashion that they did. Dirk was the focal point throughout the entire series. As the Mavericks took the first two games at Staples Center, he had an impressive 32 point effort in a late comeback in Game 3. The twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum couldn’t contain Dirk’s scoring ability. He put pressure on the two big men and forced them to play out of their comfort zone. As the Mavs blew out the Lakers in Game 4, the team swept the series and headed to their first Conference finals in five seasons. 

*Conference Finals  

The Conference Finals were also a breeze for the Mavericks. Dirk set the tone for the series in Game One where he dropped 48 points and made 24 free throws. Although the Oklahoma City Thunder got an impressive Game two victory, Dallas went into Oklahoma City and reminded the up and coming Thunder team that they were still young and inexperienced. In Game 5, Dirk had an impressive 26 points and nine rebounds, leading the Mavericks to back to the NBA Finals to play the same team they did in 2006, the Miami Heat. 

*NBA Finals

Although this was the same matchup from five years ago, the circumstances were very different for both teams. Miami just orchestrated a Big Three with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. In Game 1, Miami showed their resilience taking the series lead. But in Game 2, Dallas showed their true hustle and commitment by overcoming a 15 point fourth quarter lead. In the clinching moments of the game, Dirk was able to hit a driving layup at the end of the game, tying the series headed back to Dallas. 

The biggest part for Dallas was containing LeBron James. The team made an effort for him to play uncomfortable, which led to his confidence being shaken as he couldn’t overcome the tough, physical Dallas defense. Dirk continued to shine throughout the series as expected. In Game 4, he once again finished the Game with a driving layup to take the game and tie the series.  The Mavericks would go on to win Game 5 and head back to Miami for Game 6 to clinch their first NBA Championship. Although Dirk struggled for most of the last game, he once again came up huge in clutch situations, putting his stamp on Dallas’ victory on the night. 

When people consider individual playoff performances through the postseason, Dirk Nowitzki’s 2011 championship should always be in the conversation. Heading into that season, the Mavericks were the lower tier favorite, being overshadowed, by Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, San Antonio, etc.. As Dirk continued to shine throughout the postseason, the Mavericks continued to follow his lead, dominating the contending teams in their way and winning the championship.

Jeff Axel

What I remember about this Dirk run of 2011 was he had a major chip on his shoulder from earlier playoff failures. I still believe the 2007 first round exit where he had to get his MVP trophy from the couch motivated him this postseason run. The old scouting report was that you could get physical with Dirk and the athletic strong power forwards could guard him. That scouting report got thrown in the garbage as soon as the series against the Blazers started. Matching up with a prime Lamarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy’s last few games healthy Dirk averaged 27.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG as the Mavs beat the Blazers in 6.

In the next round, Dirk faces Kobe and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Dirk spearheaded a 3 point barrage that left the Lakers so frustrated they were committing flagrant fouls. Dirk averaged 25.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG on 57% and 73% 3PT shooting against Pau Gasol and a healthy Andrew Bynum in a surprising 4-0 sweep of the defending champions.

Dirk carried that momentum into the next series against an upcoming OKC Thunder roster with Westbrook, Harden and Durant. We thought he was in for a tough matchup against Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins but by that point, Dirk was an unstoppable force mainly with his patented 1 legged fade away jumper. He averaged 32.2 PPG on 55% and 97% from the free throw line including an NBA record 24-24 in a 48 point performance in Game 1 that set the tone for a 5 game series win for the Mavericks. I remember postgame Dirk looking disgusted with the Western Conference Finals trophy and realizing the Heat were in trouble.

Initially, The Mavs were down 2-1 but after a viral video of Dwyane Wade and Lebron mocking Dirk and accusing him of faking a sickness, the momentum of the series changed. The Mavericks came with balanced play and ripped off three straight wins, winning the series 4-2 with Dirk getting a deserving finals MVP. He averaged 26.0 PPG and grabbed about 10 boards a game in theseries. Although his percentages dropped in that series, the most impressive thing about his playoff run is that none of his teammates averaged more than 20 points per game in any series and he faced a lot of tough competition to get the ring that changed the narrative on his career. He’s 6th all time on the scoring list and we need to put more respect on Dirk’s name. 

-Da Hoop Panel


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