How Chris "Birdman" Andersen Became The Dirk-Stopper

Sean StancillSenior Writer IMay 7, 2009

DENVER - MAY 03:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks collects a rebound away from Chris Andersen #11 of the Denver Nuggets in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 3, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 109-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Many (including me) believed Chris "Birdman" Andersen wouldn't be the right defender to guard Dirk in the Western Conference Semifinals between the Nuggets and the Mavericks.

But with two games already completed and a pair of blowout wins for the Nuggets, many (including me once again) are revisiting our initial thoughts. 

When being guarded by Andersen in Game One, Nowitzki went 0-4 and helped the Nuggets' limit Dirk to only two fourth-quarter points.
In Game Two, though he had no blocked shots, Andersen collected nine rebounds, scored eight points and continued to play stifling defense on Dirk Nowitzki. Once again proved to be a pest against Dirk and the Nuggs' limited him to five points on a miserable 1-of-3 shooting.
In their individual match up, Andersen bottled up Nowitzki, stealing the ball away from him on the post for Dirk's third turnover of the game and really harassing him throughout the game.
He also coaxed Dirk into another personal foul and was the subject of Dirk's post game comments for yet the second straight game in a row.
Here is a shot chart of Dirk's performance when Andersen was on the floor:
  • In the first Quarter, Dirk scored eight points on 1-of-4 shooting
  • In the second Quarter, Dirk scored two points on 1-of-1 shooting
  • In the third Quarter, Dirk scored five points on  2-of-4 shooting
  • In the fourth Quarter, Dirk scored five points on 1-of-3 shooting
Combined, that brings a total of 20 points with a pedestrian mark of 5-for-12 from the field.
Andersen's most effective asset is that he's rangy, which allows him to give ground to Dirk and entice him into his shooting mechanics and then perfectly anticipate the situation before sending away the shot as the outcome.
Though Nowitzki scored the majority of his points with Birdman on the floor (20/35), he had to work for every basket he got and missed seven of his twelve shots, which just what the Denver Nuggets had hoped for.
With sound defense like that, I can understand why this bird is flying high.