Wizards Have No Answer for Nowitzki

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 18, 2006

Almost every aspect of the sport has changed since James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, but you can be sure that Naismith never envisioned Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.

A 7-foot, 245-pounder who can shoot, dribble and pass like a guard and rebound like a forward? The sport has never seen anything quite like him.

Just ask the Wizards, who were unable to handle the shaggy-haired German or his teammates last night as the Mavericks snapped Washington's three-game winning streak with a 104-94 victory in front of 18,954 at Verizon Center.

Nowitzki showed why he is a candidate for league most valuable player as he scored 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting with a game-high 13 rebounds and two assists in 43 minutes. Dallas (52-14) has the most wins in the NBA.

The Wizards (33-31) shot 44.3 percent from the field and were led by Gilbert Arenas (26 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) but were outscored 29-19 in the third quarter and drew no closer than eight points in the fourth.

Dallas shot 50 percent from the field and led by 17 in the final period. The Wizards employed every manner of defense against Nowitzki and used Jared Jeffries, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels on him at various stages of the game, but nothing worked.

"Whether we had a 7-footer on him, a 6-9 guy on him or a smaller, quick guy on him, whether we switched or rotated, he hurt us," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "He's a good passer and the more you pass, the easier it is to score. He was just difficult to defend tonight."

Whenever the Wizards threatened to make a game of it, Nowitzki and the Mavericks had an answer.

The Wizards trailed 96-84 with 4 minutes 3 seconds remaining when a defensive switch left the 6-4 Daniels defending Nowitzki one-on-one. Nowitzki patiently backed Daniels down with a couple of dribbles, turned and, with Daniels extending a hand in his face, calmly swished a 15-foot fadeaway that appeared to suck any remaining life out of the Wizards.

Earlier in the fourth, the Wizards sent a double team at Nowitzki, but he read the defense and fired an accurate bounce pass to a cutting Marquis Daniels, whose layup gave the Mavericks a 15-point lead.

Dallas's ball movement, shooting touch and energy on the boards, where they held a 45-35 rebounding edge, was more than the Wizards could handle.

"Unfortunately, if you have a good matchup somewhere on the floor, they get you with a wild card somewhere else, and a lot of time that wild card is Dirk," said Antonio Daniels, who finished with 17 points and six assists. "They have guys who understand their roles and play to the best of their ability."

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