I was reading the comments in the game recap for the Mavs game, when I saw this quote from TheAncientRivalry:
"Was anyone else unimpressed by KG picking up a cheap foul and tech and pretty much taunting dirk? I dont know, It was somewhat childish, dirk scored on KG twice in a row and then KG pretty much through a temper tantrum and was a non factor the rest of the way…I couldnt help but roll my eyes when reggie started giving KG all this credit for the comeback…if anyone else in the league had 19/15/14 its all youd be hearing about..not KG getting up into a guy whos known to back down"
The bolded sections touch on some things I wanted to hear some opinions on, but I was afraid it'd get buried if I replied in the recap so I decided to give it it's own blog. The topic I'm curious about is what part you believe head games can play in some outcomes. As AncientRivalry points out, Dirk had been scoring relatively easily all game when KG went nuts. Up to that point (2:15 left in 3rd Q) Dirk had 31 points on 11-for-18 shooting from the field and the Celtics were flat as a team, then after KG's "tantrum" Dirk went 0-for-7 over the next 12 minutes of the game and the Celtics came to life.
Now, I have rightly seen Leon Powe's 4th quarter defense praised here, and I also remember Big Baby and Pierce taking a few turns on Dirk during that stretch as well. They basically took away the paint and forced Dirk to shoot jumpers, and he couldn't knock them down. Excellent. BUT, I will say that IMO many of the shots that Dirk missed in the 4th are shots that he often makes when he's comfortable. And there-in brings me back to the question of if KG's head games factor in here.
Because, as AncientRivalry points out, Dirk has been known to back down when challenged physically. And during KG's stalking/bumping/antagonizing of Dirk when he picked up the fouls, KG pulled out the defense move that I can only really remember him doing often against Chris Bosh (another guy he seems to intimidate): KG goes deep into a defensive stance, all the way up in the opponent's personal space. It's actually terrible defense, as if the player drives at all it's an automatic foul since he's so close. But it's almost a contemptuous type of stance, like he's telling them that he has so little respect for their offensive game that he can get up in their skin and there's nothing they can do about it. I know there's a picture of him doing it to Bosh somewhere, so let me see if I can find it...(long search)...OK, found it. Here is what I was trying to describe.
KG has done that particular overly aggressive stance twice to Bosh this season and now once to Dirk, and this was the situation/result each time:
1) 11/10/08, the infamous "KG pointed at Calderon" game. KG pulled out that stance on Bosh right around the same time that he pointed at Calderon, with the Celts down by 6 points with 1 minute left in the third quarter. After those incidents Bosh and Calderon made a COMBINED 1 field goal for the rest of the game with Bosh throwing up a goose egg. Pierce gets fired up has a huge scoring 4th quarter. Celtics win by 6.
2) 1/12/09: Raptors up 2 points with 8 minutes left in the 4th, Bosh leading the way with 16 points. KG comes into the game, gets aggressive, pulls out the "you're beneath me" defensive stance and Bosh proceeds to go without a field goal for the rest of the fourth quarter and overtime. Pierce gets fired up and has a huge scoring game. Celtics win.
3) 2/12/09: Mavs up 7 points with 2:16 left in the 3rd Q of a game when the Cs had been listless. Dirk has 31 points and is on fire. KG gets way into Dirk's personal space and (maybe) his head, does the "you're beneath me" thing, and Dirk goes 0-for-7 on jumpers that he often makes for the next 12 minutes of the game. Pierce gets fired up and has a huge scoring 4th quarter. Celtics win.
Now, the obvious difference is that in those two Raptors examples KG was still defending Bosh afterward whereas against the Mavs it was mainly Powe on Dirk. But game situation, opponent caliber, and possible opponent intimidation index were all exactly the same. And the results (both for the individual opponent and the game) were the same in all 3 cases, almost verbatim: KG's opponent disappears, Pierce gets fired up and scores a lot of points, Celtics win.
So, after this book that I wrote (never intended it to be this in depth), my question to you is: do you buy it? Do you agree with AncientRivalry that it was just a KG temper tantrum and that KG didn't factor into what came after? Or do you think that Reggie Miller was right, that KG intentionally went off and got into Nowitzki's head to energize his teammates and deflate his opponents?