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Dirk's March


25.6 points. 59% from the floor, 47% from the arc, 90% from the free throw line, 7 boards. That's Dirk's last five games.

20 points, 55% from the floor, 47% from the arc, 94% from the stripe? That's Dirk's March. 16 games. In fact, dating back to February 11th, Dirk has shot 50% or over 18 times, including every one of the last 8 games. He's shot 80% or over three times in the last 8.

It's an unbelievable offensive performance, made more unbelievable by the fact that he's still not getting to the line, averaging 3.2 free throws a game in March. Though he had 10 against the Clippers, and 5 against Boston, he's had 2 or less in 3 of the last 4. While part of this looks to me to be the long-standing antipathy between refs and the Mavericks, let's give the league the benefit of the doubt and say a lot of that is because he's still not driving like he once was.

Which is actually pretty darn incredible, since it means that the only focus of the Mavericks offense, now finally getting an almost reasonable number of shots a game (19 per over the last three, still not a lot for a guy shooting a million percent but better)--is just straight shooting over people. The best defenders on a bunch of really good teams, including the Pacers, the NBA's best defense. Like it's an open gym.

Certainly, this kind of hot shooting is not going to last. We've seen Dirk go on incredible stretches, notably the 2011 playoffs (and really any playoffs). But it doesn't actually happen that a 34 year old, having lost a couple moves or at least not currently using them, suddenly becomes an even more efficient offensive player--but in a way it doesn't matter. Something like it will last. If not 55%, then 47%. If not 47% from the arc, then 42%. And that may be more important than it seems.

It would be great if the Mavericks could make the playoffs. It'd likely be largely ceremonial, since I don't see them beating the Spurs or Thunder in a 7-game series, but it'd be nice to keep one streak alive 'til happier days. I think most of us would feel pretty good if the Mavs could just get back to .500, just shave those beards, and recognize what an accomplishment that is after a season like this.

But Dirk's March isn't just about his offensive performance in a month, certainly worthy of consideration for Western Conference Player, at least, of the last week. It's about the other features of a March, the drive, the showcase. It's about the fact that the idea of selling the Mavericks to free agents based on free agent cash was always a ridiculous idea--based on salary structures, you only ever get the chance to offer a big name FA exactly what everyone else is offering. But selling them on Dirk will be possible until it isn't.

If all Dirk achieves in his quixotic quest to drag a team without a competent point guard or scoring depth towards a doomed playoff run that's seemed impossible thirty times already, is to show that he remains one of the top three difference makers in the NBA---well, that's likely to be the best possible result of this season regardless if they do make the playoffs or don't.

And this, frankly, is why you keep playing. The Mavs may not make the playoffs, but unlike the Lakers who are stumbling in backwards, unlike the Jazz who are as good today as they were two months ago, the Mavs are showing off for prospective free agents with their grit, their execution, their refusal to lose---and with the fact that they still have Dirk Nowitzki, who is still Dirk Nowitzki. More than a first round exit, more than a miracle run that falls just short, that's going to matter come this summer.

And this summer's going to matter more than any in recent memory. Keep on doing what you're doing Dirk. If you build it, they may come.