Better Late Than Never?

Nine months after Deferential Dirk got his ass shackled, shocked and shelved by the Golden State Warriors, Decisive Dirk exacted some revenge last night. OK, so the 22-point blowout is, like, only an ounce of revenge, but that’s some, right?

In his best performance in a Mavs season that’s been appropriately muted by your Dallas Cowboys, Dirk Nowitzki dominated the Warriors with 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and a defensive sequence that almost -- I said, almost -- made us remember that he is the NBA’s reigning MVP. On offense Dirk made his moves quickly, not allowing Golden State time to double-team. And on defense, he followed consecutive blocks on Stephen Jackson with a tough rebound in traffic, igniting the AAC crowd and his teammates during a lopsided fourth quarter. “He exorcised some of his demons,” teammate Jerry Stackhouse said.

Tap the brakes, Stack.

You can never undo in January what was done in April, and Dirk’s one-man assault last night doesn’t come close to evaporating his whimpering two-of-13 exit in last spring’s Game 6. In fact, until last night, really, Dirk’s year has been a downer.

Down from last season in shooting percentage (50 to 46), three-point shooting percentage (41 to 29), free-throw shooting percentage (90 to 85) and scoring (24.6 to 21.7). Despite his relatively sub-par play, the Mavs are sailing along at 21-11 and, more importantly, 2-0 against a Warriors team that supposedly had them in a perpetual brain freeze.

While last night reminded us how good the Mavs are, tomorrow night’s hosting of the Miami Heat brings yet another reminder at how fragile they can be. Lest we forget the 2006 Finals, eh? Which begs the question: Who would you rather be, a Heat team that won the title in 2006 only to miss the playoffs in ’07 and be the worst team in the East in ’08 at 8-24? Or a Mavs team that lost the title in ’06 only to remain at an elite level in ’07 and ’08. Discuss amongst yourselves. --Richie Whitt

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