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Dirk Nowitzki is Entering Playoff Mode

One is the loneliest number, but it also marks the number of rebounds Dirk Nowitzki had in the game against the Phoenix Suns prior to the All-Star break on Feb. 17. In the eyes of coach Rick Carlisle, Having the advantage in the rebounding category is considered one of the major keys to success for the Dallas Mavericks. For the season, Nowitzki is currently averaging 6.8 rebounds, his lowest average since his first full season in the NBA (1999-00). His rookie year was the 1998-99 season, but it was shortened to only 47 games due to the lockout.

Based on those numbers, concern was starting to grow where people wondered if Nowitzki's right knee was not fully recovered after sitting out nine games due to a sprained knee (late December/early January). The nine games that he missed marked the longest stretch of games he's missed in his 12-year NBA career. When you add the 12 years, consistent trips to the playoffs and summer commitments to the German National Team, concern about Nowitzki losing tread on the tires could be a legitimate concern. Questions arose whether or not Nowitzki's overall "lift" was completely gone or was he just biding his time until it was time to crank it up?

The 10-time All-Star has started to crank up the intensity in the rebounding department, which has helped the Mavericks' overall rebounding production increase along the way. Prior to the All-Star break, Dallas was out-rebounded by their opponents by an average margin of .3 (41.5 to 41.2). Post All-Star Break, Dallas has out-rebounded their opponents by an average margin of +2.9 (41.6 to 38.7). That is a significant change and Nowitzki has played a big role in their positive results.

Here is a breakdown of Nowitzki's rebounding averages over a variety of time periods:

Post All-Star Break: 7.9 rebounds

Last 10 games: 7.7 rebounds

Last 5 games: 9.8 rebounds

Last 3 games: 9.4 rebounds

Here is a month-by-month breakdown of Nowitzki's rebounding averages as the season has moved along:

OCT - 3 games NOV - 14 games DEC - 12 Games JAN - 9 Games FEB - 12 Games MAR - 11 Games
Rebounding Averages 9.0 8.1 6.3 4.9 6.3 7.5


From an advanced statistics perspective, Nowitzki's true rebounding percentage is at 11.8%. The true rebounding percentage (TRB%) is as estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor. If you don't remember, Nowitzki's TRB% was around 11.2% in the middle of February.

If you just want the raw stats, you can look at the three-game stretch against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs. Within a span of five days, Nowitzki had three consecutive double-doubles that were incredibly impressive. His "worst" performance out of the three games saw him record 25 points and 10 rebounds against the Lakers. During that three-game stretch, Nowitzki averaged a stout 29.0 points and 11.3 rebounds. You have to go back to Nov. 19-Nov. 28 of the 2008-09 season to find a stretch of three straight games where Nowitzki had back-to-back-to-back double-double performances. Nowitzki averaged 23.0 points and 11.5 rebounds during that three-game stretch.

"I’m just making a conscious effort to get more (rebounds) and help on the glass," Nowitzki said in regards to what has changed in the rebounding department. "If Tyson (Chandler) is rebounding the ball the way like he can, the team doesn’t really need my glass work. But on some nights where we’re getting pushed around, I’ve got to take that on myself and get more rebounds."

Nowitzki has come a long way from the one rebound performance against the Suns, but he knows that he needs to bring more to the table to help his team out as the second season is approaching. Over the course of 103 playoff games as a member of the Mavericks, Nowitzki has averaged 10.3 rebounds/game in the playoffs, well above his career average of 8.4 rebounds/game. "I’ve got to rebound better, especially coming down towards the playoffs when we see the big teams," Nowitzki said. "If we see Memphis, they’ve got some big boys. Portland plays a bunch of big guys. New Orleans has (Emeka) Okafur and (David) West, so all of these teams down there are big. I’ve got to find a way to get some rebounds."


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