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This is a finalist for the best matchup of this series with the small forward pairing. The similarities of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Bosh in style, finesse and perimeter skill could create a dazzling back-and-forth throughout the Finals.
What superlatives remain to describe Nowitzki's body of work this postseason at age 32? Brilliant, masterful, superb, magnificent, immaculate. This is the lofty level of verbiage reserved for his continued performance in the last six weeks.
The word that I keep coming back to as I watch him play is possessed. It looks like his body was taken over by a better version of himself, one that suddenly knows what it takes to win a title and everything leading up to it. Everything he's touched has turned to gold, as if he was the Greek King Midas.
The platitudes for Dirk's offensive performance are unending. He's shooting over 60 percent from the field in the last two series with about 29 points per game. He's reached 40 points twice in the West finals; both instances required 20 shots or fewer. He shot 59-of-61 from the free-throw line against the Thunder, including 24-of-24 in Game 1 and 14-of-15 in a comeback Game 4 victory.
You can go on about Dirk's offense all day, but I want to talk about his unexpectedly stellar defensive effort. His Mavericks swept the Lakers easily, and his defense on the moribund Pau Gasol was a huge reason why. The Lakers All-Star got pushed out from the low post by Dirk, who consistently outmuscled Gasol and made shots tough. Against a strong inside team, Dirk upped his rebounding to 9.3 per game, which is nearly two higher than his full playoff average.
In the Oklahoma City series, Nowitzki simply wore out whoever Scott Brooks threw at him with a smattering of fall-aways, one-legged jumpers and three-point bombs. They truly had to guard Dirk everywhere on the floor, because his zone is so focused that he is a threat to score from anywhere.
He was already the consensus top international player ever, but this postseason run he's got the Mavs on is earning him a spot in discussions with names like Barkley, Malone and Erving. If he wins a title this year, you'll hear him mentioned with another low-post legend: Duncan.
Chris Bosh has had one major responsibility this postseason: make the opponent pay for giving too much attention to stop Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. He's done that, just as he did all regular season, with uncannily similar averages. Bosh has two key increases from his season averages though—minutes and field-goal percentage. He's focused and aggressive, and his efficiency numbers are a positive outcome of that.
Bosh has stepped up several times in crunch time when the Heat needed him. In playoff games decided by 10 points or fewer, Bosh is averaging 17.4 points and 9.8 rebounds and just fills out what Wade and LeBron miss.
He really owned the Chicago series, when being at his best mattered most. With defensive stalwart Joakim Noah guarding him, Bosh sunk 64 percent of his shots in the series to the tune of 24 points per game. That's a real testament to his aggressiveness and efficiency.
Both Dirk and Bosh are humming on all cylinders right now. Each of them is hitting shots at a ridiculous clip and has been largely unstoppable offensively. Whether they guard each other in the Finals is uncertain, but if they do, it will pit two All-Stars playing similar styles successfully.
Something will have to give in each player's toughest defensive assignment of the playoffs.
Advantage: Mavericks and Dirk