Just three wins away from representing the Western Conference in the 2011 NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are rolling.
Since facing a tough first-round series with the Portland Trailblazers, the Mavericks have taken off. The Mavericks swept Kobe Bryant and the second-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in a series where there was never a doubt the Mavericks were the better team.
Step-up play from Dirk Nowitzki is arguably the most significant reason the the Mavericks find themselves in a favorable position to win an NBA championship.
Now up 1-0 in their Western Conference Finals match-up against the young, talented Oklahoma City Thunder, Nowitzki will have to continue to prove his worth as the series goes on.
Here are the five reasons why Dirk Nowitzki is not only the best player in blue and white, but the best player left in the NBA playoffs.
A player not known for his play on the defensive end, Dirk Nowitzki has taken it upon himself to play more aggressively on defense.
Against the biggest front-court in the league (Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol), Nowitzki was able to up his rebounding average to 9.3 a game, while managing to record 14 in Game 1 of the series against the Lakers.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, he posted six rebounds and a whopping four blocks. A talent that doesn't pride himself on his defensive play, Nowitzki has shown he will do whatever it takes to win basketball games.
Nowitzki has shown great discipline in his offensive game, taking intelligent shots and patiently waiting for the more opportune moments to score the basketball.
When is the last time a guy scores 48 points on just 15 shots from the field?
Talk about an efficient effort.
Since the first-round series, Nowitzki has improved his shooting percentage from 45.2 percent, to 57.4 against the Lakers, and now an impressive 80 percent against the Thunder. If Nowitzki continues to take good shots, other players will get more involved in the offense and his point totals will continue to light up the scoreboard.
A rarity for a player his size, Nowitzki can stretch the floor as well as any power forward in the NBA. Period.
His three-point shot has been deadly this postseason, posting a 60 percent average in the playoffs so far. Nowtizki also boasts quickness with his first step, making slower defenders have to play catch-up when he takes the ball down the lane.
His offensive arsenal only continues to grow, as defenders continue to struggle with slowing down the athletic, offensively gifted Nowitzki.
Here are the best three scoring averages for players left in the playoffs:
No. 1 : Kevin Durant 29.8 ppg 46.5 FG% 38.1 3pt %
No. 2: Derrick Rose 28.8 ppg 42.1 FG % 26.9 3pt %
No. 3: Dirk Nowitzki 28.5 ppg 52.0 FG % 60.0 3pt %
Taking into consideration that Nowitzki handily takes the advantage in field goal percentage and three-point accuracy, Nowitzki gets the nod as the best scorer left in the postseason. He has been especially efficient from the floor and is averaging just one point less per game than leading scorer in the postseason, Kevin Durant.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are in contention as well, yet since they play together, it is arguable that they limit their own respective abilities to score the basketball as well as they used to do when they played on different teams.
It should be noted that in Game 1 against Oklahoma City, Nowitzki made 12 of his 15 shots and hit all 24 free-throws he attempted in route to his 48 points.
Talk about efficiency. Dirk exemplified it in Game 1 against the Thunder.
Of the pool of players left in the postseason, there is not one player who has shown he wants an NBA championship more than Dallas Mavericks veteran talent Dirk Nowitzki.
After losing a lead in the 2006 NBA Finals against a Dwyane Wade led Miami Heat team, and getting knocked out in the playoffs early the last three years, Nowitzki is a man on a mission.
Not only has he gotten the job done offensively for the team, but Nowitzki has also made it a habit to play defense for the team and get other players like Jason Terry and J.J. Barea involved more on offense. He is doing the little things to help his team win this postseason, and it's paying dividends.
If Nowitzki can keep up his efficiency and help the Mavericks move on to the NBA Finals, the Mavericks might just have enough to get it done and take home an NBA title.