We don't occultize Dirk the way we do Gilbert, LeBron or Steve Nash. But think about Dirk for a second --- not his court persona, but his actual function. Did you see him with 8:22 left in the second quarter, swiping the defensive rebound, then pushing it up the floor, weaving through the entire Clipper transition defense, then pull up at the arc, stop on a dime, and nail that three? In other words, there's a seven-foot-tall German guy out there, and he's running the floor and handling the ball like an ACC point guard. He's working off the ball like a freaky wing player. You prefer that he play like a good old pivot man? No problem. He's happy to cover you at center on both ends, score in the post, grab ten boards, and a block a shot for you every night. There's a misperception about Dirk that he's a defensive liability. But I haven't seen Dirk play a game in over a year where he wasn't -- at the very worst -- adequate while guarding low. Not one game. His line tonight won't look all that impressive, but Dirk Nowitzki won the game at the 18 minute mark.
There's isn't a lot I have to say about tonight. Evidence, to be instructive, must be examined in context. Watching a set materialize when the team is down 25 and Austin Croshere is in the game doesn't elucidate matters. It's just filler. Vacant blocks of basketball. Flat crowds. Loud substitution horns, but little else to be heard. The first quarter was encouraging because it felt like good old 05-06 Clipper offensive basketball – efficient and steady. I'm becoming more convinced that this is a serious defensive issue the Clippers are facing. Is there anyone who felt that the Clips weren't a Top 10 defensive squad coming into the season? Sure, there have been missed opportunities at the offensive end, but this team is being mauled on their heels. They continue to double in needless situations, further hampering their sorryass weak side defense. Because Kaman is caught away from the basket, whether by instinct or design, chasing Dirk and various others up high, a team like Dallas can pull down 10 offensive boards. It's far too much to enumerate. After a while, you miss what you sat down to see and wonder if you can get some elsewhere.
I spent the latter part of the evening watching the incendiary Wizz-PHX game. It was the sort of ferocious, intense basketball we haven't seen since May. After six weeks of cold leftovers, it was a rush to watch fresh basketball. Gilbert reminded us again how a coin flip can be so cruel. In the waning moments of the game, while the stunned crowd grappled with their first loss in five weeks, all I could muster was jealousy. Not for Gilbert or PHX's choreography or the fans and their win streak, but for basketball that matters.