The Lakers, Hawks, and Mavericks all entered last night with the chance to close out their opponents. The Lakers easily took care of business against Chris Paul’s Hornets. The Hawks (somewhat surprisingly) had taken control of their series with the Magic early and never let go. And Dallas closed out an exciting and dangerous Portland team.
Dirk Nowitzki has aged but continues to be one of the best players in the league. He’s not as exciting as some of the league’s other stars, but watching him on offense is flat-out entertaining. Some of the shots he’s able to hit are simply unstoppable. Even against Portland’s long, athletic front line, he was too much to handle.
It’s a testament to the Dallas front office that they seemingly cobble together a bunch of role players around Nowitzki and every year, the team throws up 50 wins. When you go to battle with Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, and a shadow-of-his-former-self Jason Kidd, not much should be expected. Sure, those guys are all competent starters in the NBA. But they’re not players who anyone would consider to be second-best options on a title contender. Nowitzki hasn’t played with a real All-Star since Steve Nash left Dallas in 2004. And no, Josh Howard doesn’t count.
The Mavs now face the Lakers in the second round. And for the second series in a row, the Lakers face a team centered around a single superstar and a bunch of role players. For all Chris Paul’s greatness, he’s not quite a surefire Hall of Famer yet. Dirk Nowitzki is. He’ll need to lead his team to a performance better than the playoff letdowns that Dallas has put up in recent years to stand a chance against the L.A. juggernaut.
Also, Dirk is really, really good.