Kelvin's Korner: vs Dallas - January 1, 2011
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Following the Bucks practice on Friday we caught up with Kelvin Sampson to talk about open the New Year against Dallas (24-7). Here are a few of the key points he brought up about the game.
"We have to prepare that Dirk (Nowitzki) is going to play, but he may not," Sampson said. "He has missed the last two games. If he doesn't play, then Shawn Marion is going to get the majority of the minutes at the four-spot, which means that Jason Terry and Shawn Marion will be our primary points of emphasis.
"But with Dallas, it comes down to pinning them in the half court, they're one of the best half court teams in the league. It's because of Jason Kidd. He's one of those guys that can dominate without shooting. Kidd has become strictly a spot up 3-point shooter, he'll back you down in the post and he's a good passer from the post. He's not really a scorer."
Jason Kidd is averaging a career-low 8.1 points per game this year, but his 7.9 shot attempts are the second-lowest of his career. He also just has three seasons where he has made more than the 1.6 3-pointers per game he's averaging right now. His 8.8 assists per game are sixth in the NBA and his 3.96:1 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the league.
"They key for us is if Dirk plays, keep him off his left hand," Sampson noted. "Even though he's right handed, he's a left handed driver. Most of his shots come from going left off the dribble. I think Kobe (Bryant) and Dirk are the two best tough shot makers in the league. Dirk makes hard shots. He'll back you in, step back off one foot and make the shot just as easy as most people make a wide open 15-footer. You just have to challenge his shots as best as possible and limit his shots to one per possession. "
Nowitzki has shot 47.5 percent for his career, including this season, and has topped 50.0 percent once in his career prior to 2010-11 (50.2 percent in 2006-07 when he won the MVP award). This season, he is 13th in the league and at age 32, Nowitzki is shooting a career-best 54.5 percent from the field and 40.3 from three, the fourth-best of his career.
According to Sampson, "Other keys are keeping Tyson Chandler off the boards (8.9 rebounds, 2.2 offensive) and Jason Terry. Terry may be the most prolific off the bench scorer in the league. (coming off the bench) That's a tribute to Terry and his willingness to help his team win. A lot of guys would let their egos get in the way. Jason is a prolific scorer. He prefers to go to his right, keeping him on one side of the floor is key.
In Jason Terry's 26 games off the bench (he has started five games) he leads the league with 14.9 points. He also adds 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals in 31.9 minutes per game.
"In the first game we did a great job defensively," Sampson said. "Dirk had 30 points, but it was a hard 30. That and attacking their zone are keys to the game. They've become one of the best zone teams in the league. Lots of teams play zone because they can't guard you. Dallas does it as part of their defensive package. We need to attack it intelligently to get good shots and then make the shots when we get them."
With all those keys to the game, I asked Sampson on his thoughts if teams treat each game the same or if it's different when you're facing off against one of the league's best squads. Eight of the Bucks 12 wins have come against teams with records at or above .500 on the day of the game.
"I think for us, our guys get excited to play the better teams," Sampson said. That's one of the reasons we've played them well this year. We beat Dallas, the Lakers, had a great opportunity to win in San Antonio, beat Atlanta in Atlanta and beat New York.
"In our situation right now at 12-18 with having guys out, the message that we're sending to our guys is that we can't afford to get up for certain teams, we have to be up for every team. Every game is important. We're six games under .500 but the schedule is going to come back in our favor. Every game we can get in this tough stretch will be a huge advantage for us later on."