February 29, 2008
Coming into Thursday's battle against the Spurs, Dirk Nowitzki was averaging almost 30 points per game and shooting over 60 percent from the floor playing with All-Star point guard Jason Kidd. Incredible jump. But why? Were Kidd's superior passing skills -- like where and when he was getting Dirk the ball -- having that much of an immediate impact on Dirk's improved offensive game? It seemed possible.
So, out of curiosity, I decided to keep track of the Kidd-to-Dirk possessions that resulted in a shot attempt last night. Here's what I found:
1st, 10:30 -- Kidd throws Dirk an oop off a bogged down pick-and-roll. The pass is right on the money, but Dirk screws up his footing, forgets to jump, and botches the easy two.
1st, 4:05 -- Stack rebound, flips it to Kidd. Kidd takes one dribble and throws a perfect over-the-top pass to Dirk who leaked out after challenging the missed shot. Manu fouls, two made Dirk free throws. TNT's Doug Collins: "I'm not taking anything away from Devin Harris or Jason Terry, but they're not capable of making this pass."
2nd, 1:30 -- Kidd picks up a loose ball in the key and immediately zips it to Dirk. The pass is a little off target and Dirk misses the 15-footer.
3rd, 6:35 -- Off an offensive rebound, Kidd gets the ball at the top of the three-point line. Dirk is to his right. Kidd draws the only Spur in their vicinity, Oberto, in with a quick head fake and then passes it to Dirk. Made three, timeout San Antonio. Kidd's pass was in the perfect spot for Dirk to catch and get off a quick shot. Perfect.
3rd, 5:35 -- Howard passes to Kidd at the top of the three-point line, who immediately passes to Dirk spotted up in the right corner. The defense doesn't have time to recover and Horry knocks Dirk to floor on the shot. Three foul shots.
4th, 1:40 -- There's a lot of traffic, but Kidd calmly lobs it into Dirk in the middle of the key. One dribble, turnaround, fake, gravy. Huge shot by Dirk. Tie game, 94 apiece.
And that was it, which was surprisingly low. (Note: I didn't include a few possessions in the fourth where Kidd just dumped the ball to Dirk on the block. They were fairly routine passes and Dirk wasted a bit of time with his back to the basket.)
So, has Kidd's passing helped Dirk's makes and shot selection? Well, this isn't a whole lot to go on ... but I think so.
As KD pointed out this morning, it's not like Kidd is all of a sudden finding Dirk on the fast break for lay-up after lay-up. That's not why Dirk is scoring more. (Though that over-the-top bomb in the first was beautiful.)
No, it's really the little things with Jason Kidd. He knows exactly where and when to place the ball. That's key for a high-volume shooter like Dirk. Perfection and repetition. Shooters love it.