Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why Tonight's Game Could Mean Everything For The Season

Where were you for Game 4 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals? The Mavs, though down a Dirk Nowitzki, should have tied the series up at home, but they didn't. The 2003 Mavs had the greatest offense in the league and used it to take the first game of the series by 3 points. The next two games were decided by the same point margin with Game 2 higher scoring than Game 3. Their opponent? The San Antonio Spurs, fresh off an upset of sorts against the defending champion in the second round. They were the super team of the playoffs after knocking off the favorite Lakers, and they had a chance to go up 3-1 going home for Game 5.

Fast-forward to today. The Phoenix Suns win the first game of the series in Dallas by 3 points using offense. The Mavs slowed the next two down with offense and win by 7 points. And they have an opportunity to go home up 3-1.

Now, I'm a big believer in history repeating itself. And if the Mavs win tonight, I will not pronounce them as the 2003 San Antonio Spurs, but I will keep that option open. If you look at that team, and you look at this Mavs team, you can see a lot of similarities.

The Spurs started a power forward that was at the peak of his game, and it's hard to imagine that Dirk isn't at the top of his. The Spurs put the ball in the hands of second year speedy point guard in Tony Parker; Devin Harris, anybody? The Spurs were considered the deepest team in the league much like the Mavs of this year.

The biggest difference between the 2006 Western Conference Finals and the 2003 series is that the Spurs did not need a line-up change to keep up with the Mavs. They imposed their will on the Mavs leaving two bigs out there in David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Some could argue that Diop is playing the David Robinson role (though nowhere near the player he was), but the bottom line is that the Mavs need to take it to the Suns tonight to justify the comparison.

Great teams pounce on the weaknesses of their opponents. And the Suns are looking pretty weak right now. They can say they are physically tired all they want, but I don't think that's playing as much of a factor as their mental fatigue. The score may not dictate it, but the Mavs are obliterating the Suns. That opening sequence in the third quarter of Game 3 showed how great the Mavs could be. They forced turnovers and capitalized on Suns' mistakes, completely taking the air out of the stadium. The Suns were powerless to stop the Mavs much like the 2003 Mavs had no answer for the Spurs.

A great offense is dependent on finding holes in a defense. A great defense is independent and can shut down a great offense. As Mavs fans, we know that better than anyone. We have been on the losing end of great offense vs. great defense. Game 4 will tell us if the Mavs truly do have a Great Defense.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What Team Does Jerry Stackhouse Play For?

There has been a disturbing trend throughout these playoffs. In case the title hasn't tipped you off, it is the erratic play of one Jerry Stackhouse. He had two absolutely critical mistake in the Spurs series, one cost a game, the other nearly did. Of course, I am talking about Game 1 not driving to the basket and Game 3 purposely missing the free throw when it was unecessary. And yes, he played well in Game 7, but that was retribution for all the poor fade-aways he was taking throughout the entire series. Then the Western Conference Finals began.

Looking at the box scores for both games doesn't do his poor play justice.
13.5 PPG 5.5 RPG 2.5 APG .500 FG% and 3 Turnovers per Game
With numbers like that, you wouldn't think he's playing poorly. That's average. If Marquis put up numbers like that, then we'd say he's been playing pretty well. The problem is Stack isn't Marquis. He's supposed to be like a starter but off the bench. He's supposed to be clutch. HE'S SUPPOSED TO BE DRIVING TO THE BASKET ON THE SUNS PISS POOR INTERIOR DEFENSE. He's none of those things. Unfortunately.

Stack has reached the point in my world where I wish he weren't in the game. When he is in the game, I cringe everytime he touches the ball. It's depressing. He's such a vital part of the team, and me, one of the Mavs' biggest fans, cannot stand him. I feel more comfortable with Marquis Daniels out there. Stack could be scoring 25 points per game, but his turnovers seem to happen at the wrong time. He takes shots that he has no business taking (like mid-range fade-aways!). The Mavs need him but without the boneheaded plays.

According to me, he was one of the Mavs keys to winning the series. Then again, everything I said in that Western Conference Finals previews has turned out wrong. Damp was a DNP CD in Game 2, KVH can't buy a basket, Devin Harris has yet to adjust to a slow pace, and worst of all, Stack hasn't brought any of the intangibles the team needs from him. And yet, the Mavs are still in position to win the series.

So is this an indictment on my crappy analysis? Or are the Mavs in trouble? I'm gonna go with A. Using Damp as an offensive option is not feasible because the Suns are just too damn fast. KVH is playing like, well, KVH. Devin did slow it down in Game 2 but only slightly. Stack (shuddering).

Where am I going with this? I'll spell it out. Stack needs to instill fear in the Suns. It seems like the Suns are waiting for him to get the ball, and then they all pounce. And Stack buckles under the pressure. It's about time for him to split defenders and dunk the crap out of the ball or let the defenders collapse on him and find the open man.

I'd like to have the confidence he can do it. I just want to see it.

Mavs win Game 3 if Stack gives me the confidence I've been talking about.
I'd hate to jinx it, but I think he will.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Humbled

Could the Mavs have possibly been any higher? They just won Game 7 on the road against their arch-rival in overtime. They were the favorites to win the NBA title. And they were 100% healthy. Then Game 1 happened...

I re-read my Conference Finals preview after Game 1, and I think I overestimated how terrible Mike D'Antoni is. He's still bad, and he's still not a top 10 coach. In fact, he didn't do one thing right the entire game. There was no coaching move he made that made a difference in the game. The final play was even audibled by Tim Thomas. On the other hand, he did nothing wrong. He's no Red Auerbach, but he's not Jim Cleamons either. D'Antoni may not lose games for the Suns, but he certainly won't win games for them either.

So, let's delve into what happened in Game 1. To me, it's pretty simple. Steve Nash was one assist away from a career high. Boris Diaw scored a career high. Steve Nash scored 10 straight points. And Josh Howard was out for pretty much the entire game. The Suns won by 3. I don't blame games on referees, which is why I didn't bring up the turning the corner offensive foul 6'3 108 pound Devin Harris committed. So it took all those things for the Suns to steal one at AAC. Does it change the way we look at this series? Certainly. Is it cause for concern? Potentially. Will the Mavs still win? Probably.

Now, what do the Mavs need to do tonight? It's very simple. Slow it down. Devin Harris may have scored 30 points, but he was going balls to the wall the entire game. Good luck beating Phoenix in a track meet. Against the Spurs, the Mavs needed two quarters of 30 points to guarantee a win. Against the Suns, the Mavs need two quarters of holding the Suns to under 25 points.

As far as coaching goes, look for Griffin to get some serious playing time. His job may be to shut down Barbosa. That's just a guess. But Avery is the master of adjustments, and he'll do something. Griffin on Barbosa is just a guess.

If Dirk can get involved early (a very real possibility with Josh Howard's injury), then expect somewhere near 40 points for him. If not more. Dirk knows as much as anyone the importance of not going down 0-2.

Mavs should win in Dirk's game.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Redemption or Replication?

When I was thinking about beating the Spurs, the next team I was thinking about was the Heat or Pistons. I guess I figured that after winning in the second round, the Western Conference Finals would be a sinch. Well, I figured wrong.

I watched the entire Lakers/Suns series, but I rarely watched the Clips/Suns series. I saw parts of Games 6 and 7. And I'll tell you, the Suns worry me. When they get hot, they are scorching. Not even the old Mavs could get open from 3 and nail them like the Suns of today do. It is borderline unfair, but the good thing is that it can be mitigated. And there is one guy on our team who can secure a sweep. Brace yourself. This one may shock you. The one Maverick who can finish the Suns off is...

Erick Dampier

And as I type these words, lightning strikes me. Feel free to close this window if you don't agree, but for fun, how about you listen to my absolutely non-sensical prediction.

The Suns have no inside presence. If Damp plays effective offense, then the Suns must put their player who plays the biggest (Marion) on Dampier or trot out Brian Grant. You're kidding yourself if you think Kurt Thomas is halfway effective at anything in this series or even the rest of his injury-riddled career (No, I'm not bitter about "I give the Mavs my word that I will sign with them in the offseason" saga). Anyway, back to my original point. If Marion guards Damp, that leaves Tim Thomas or Diaw to guard Dirk or Josh Howard. You gotta feel confident with that and with Nash guarding either Terry or Harris. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Griffin replace Harris to get some perimeter defense out on the floor. If the Suns trot Brian Grant out there to guard and effective Dampier, then their offense is slowed greatly. The Mavs could guard the three point line easily if only four guys can shoot the 3 instead of five. For argument's sake, let's stick Kurt Thomas out there to guard Damp. The Suns offense is still slowed down, but not as much as it would if 68 year-old Brian Grant were out there. So here's to Kurt Thomas' foot, may it haunt you for the rest of your days. You bastard.

So that's why we need Damp. If he doesn't show up (which is a possibility), then we are going to need a couple of guys who have contributed in the past to give us some good stuff. I'm throwing these players out there assuming that Dirk, Howard, and Terry provide their usual.

DEVIN HARRIS

This is going to be a particularly hard series for him because his greatest asset is the one that Avery cannot let him use. Speed. Devin may be faster than everyone on the Suns, but the Mavs must set a slower pace. The Mavs need Harris to be an effective distributor and driver to the basket, not the speed demon that the Spurs series dictated.

KEITH VAN HORN

Or as I like to call him. KVH. KVH is one of the best spot up shooters in the league. That's something I would consider a backhanded compliment because by saying spot up shooter, I'm saying that KVH cannot shoot at all if his feet aren't set. That's worthy of 17 million dollars. If he camps out at the top of the 3 point line and waits for a drive and kick or even some good perimeter ball movement, KVH will shoot 70% from 3 point range. And to beat the Suns, you have to have some three point shooting. Long Live KVH.

STACK

It seems like he's always on this list. Well, he should be. He's the Mavs toughest player. The Mavs obviously need his offense, but his willingness to stand up and throw an elbow could really hurt the Suns. This is the same Jerry Stackhouse who a few weeks ago against the Suns was ready to throw down with Tim Thomas. Yes, Tim Thomas who has been working out with Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro. If a game starts getting out of hand, look for Stack to throw a hard foul. If a game gets chippy, look for Stack to sock Tim Thomas in the face. If a game is close, look for Stack to drive the lane and dunk over whoever is trying to play center and stare him down with that Stack "I just owned you and now I'm going to have sex with your significant other even if it's Boris Diaw's boyfriend" look.


Is that all there is to a Conference Finals series? Just Damp, Devin, KVH, and Stack? No way. We haven't even seen the Mavs greatest strength in the series.

COACHING

Avery Johnson, in my unbiased opinion, is a top 3 coach in the league. You can put him, Phil Jackson, and Popovich is any order as the top 3, and I'd agree. Despite two straight trips to the Conference Finals, I wouldn't put Mike D'Antoni in the top half of coaches. I will never doubt his offensive prowess, but that's all he has. He cannot draw up a defensive play in overtime, he's always complaining, and he's European. Most people forget that D'Antoni coached the Nuggets during some of their more abyssmal seasons.

Look for the Mavs to win any close game off of coaching alone. I'm guessing two.

You have to figure that the center position will win one game.

Dirk's going to catch fire one game and win it.

KVH and Terry will let it rain one night to win a game.

And Stack will get the Mavs fired up in a game.

The Suns will win a game based on hot shooting alone. I'm talking 60%.


While my prediction may be obvious by now, here is one thing to chew on. The Mavs are the best rebounding team in the playoffs, and the Suns are the worst. That will be a problem for the Suns.

Mavs in 5 (If Damp shows up, Mavs in 4)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rejoice... For Now

We all should have seen this coming. Not the win. But the microcosm Game 7 was to the entire series. We can break it down pretty easily.

Mavs jump out to big lead thanks to a fast-paced offense, catching fire, and a few lucky breaks. Spurs begin to chip away and start getting some luck their way as well. At the end, the whole thing is tied, but the Spurs just didn't have the legs to finish it out. The first four quarters of the game were just like the rest of the series, but overtime made the teams show their true colors. Not to smite the Spurs (after all, I always contended that they were the best team in the league until they were beat), but it wasn't even close in overtime. The Mavs had the fire that the Spurs couldn't extinguish. Of course, it didn't help them that Tim Duncan finally gave out. Bottom line, the best team won.

Hopefully, I dedicate an entire post on this subject, but I will mention it right now. I almost feel bad for Michael Finley. He was unceremoniously dumped by the Mavs and then beat by them. He deserves a title. Just not with the Spurs. I prayed that he would sign with Miami, but he made his choice to switch over to the darkside. The reason why the Mavs got rid of him was because we had a better do-it-all scoring guard in Stack once that amnesty clause came about. And my friend Ryan brought up the point of how ironic it was that Stack was the one who played perfect defense on Finley's final chance three at the end of OT. Good guy. Wrong team.

One final thing about the game. People are hating on the Mavs for blowing a 20-point lead, but that was not the case at all. They were up by 20 at one point, but that was thanks to 80% shooting. The Mavs couldn't do that against the Knicks, let alone the Spurs. They were going to come back down to Earth, the only thing we could do was hope that the impact wouldn't jar the team. Thankfully, it didn't.

And once fighting on even footing, the Mavs survived a broken nose and ultimately won.

Quickly about the Pistons/Heat series. The Heat, particularly Shaq and Wade, will destroy the Piston's "team." Actually, Flip Saunders will destroy the team, but his destruction of the team will be based off reaction from Shaq and Wade. Heat in 6.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lucky Number 7

I never grasped the concept of how important Game 7's were until the Stars got knocked out by the Oilers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (back when hockey existed). I woke up the next morning and realized "Oh, the Stars are done for the season? Damn, I didn't even realize."

Well, here it is folks. We're staring the end of the season right in the face. We could be two days away from a Rangers recap in the Morning News to catch up all the Mavs fans on what's going on in baseball, or we could be two days away from that paper space allocated to the in-depth Western Conference Finals preview by David Moore, Eddie Sefko, and all the rest of the Morning News basketball gurus.

And as fans, there is nothing we can do but watch and cross our fingers. We can only hope that Dirk fights the double teams, draws fouls, and makes shots. We can only wish that Terry comes out with a chip on his shoulder and starts draining threes like his name is Reggie. We can only pray that Diop and Damp play the type of interior defense we saw against Memphis.

Are those the only three keys to Game 7? Of course not. Those are only the things that will give us a chance to win. Let's look at the aspects of this game that can really make or break this team.

COACHING

Avery needs to do some serious motivating. I'm not knocking Avery; he's pushed buttons all season, but this is where he needs to reach down and give HIS pre-game speech. The kind that we see in the movies. People may say that the players should need a speech to get them psyched up for a Game 7, but that's what makes these speeches. You bring in an aspect that the players don't see. Go beyond being up 3-1 at one point, beyond being on the road, beyond even a title. It's one game, and it's the game that will determine how successful the season is. The Mavs need Avery to create some magic to get the call rolling.

STACK

I was in Vegas this past weekend, and I would have put some serious money on a prop bet with Stack's total points. No matter what the line was set at, I would have picked the over. I thought he would have a man's game. Well, he didn't. All he needs to do is camp out in the corner and take his 3's or drive to the basket. Even if he's not doing anything, his defender will eventually leave him to double at one point. And Stack should take advantage. I don't want to see him taking off balance mid-range jumpers. Stack is like Michael Finley in that he should only be taking open 3's or driving to the line. None of this stopping short of the basket crap. It's Game 7. Everyone should be going to their bread and butter, and the Mavs don't have a better finisher than Stack.

TEMPO

We'll know after the first quarter whether the Mavs have a chance to win. Game 7 must be an up tempo game. The Spurs get in foul trouble when the Mavs are pushing the ball, and the Mavs set the pace early. If the Mavs score over 25 points in the first quarter, smile but with caution. If the Mavs score less than 20 points in the first quarter, worry but don't panic. Reggie Miller was 100% correct in saying the Mavs need two 30 point quarters to win against the Spurs. And that's what it's going to take.

LUCK

You will never hear me blame an entire series on the referees, but in the six games, each team that has won has been getting the benefit of the doubt from the refs. While that hasn't been the deciding factor, it's been a factor nevertheless. There are also baskets that go in-and-out and some that go out-then-in. The Mavs need more friendly rolls and bounces than the Spurs. That's something that is out of the Mavs hands.


So we've broken down what the Mavs need to do. There are many aspects of the game, but I will leave you with something to think about before, during, and after tonight's games:

The Mavs were flying high at 3-1, but people forget that it could have been 3-1 the other way as well. It was inevitable that the Spurs would fight back and win one or two games. Luck has been on both teams' sides at different points in the season, so whoever wins tonight didn't get lucky, and the team that loses didn't get screwed. The Mavs had a chance to close it out and didn't, and the Spurs never should have been down as much as they were. The best team will win tonight. And the best players will shine.

Dirk: 30 pts. 15 rebs.
Josh Howard: 25 pts. 10 rebs.
Terry: 28 pts. (6 3's)

Mavs win.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pull The Trigger!

How weird does this sound? I hope the Mavs are nothing like the Lakers. Re-read it and think about Magic, Kareem, West, Wilt, Baylor, Kobe, and Shaq. Then think about Khalid Reeves, Cedric Ceballos, Chris Gatling, Cherokee Parks, Samaki Walker, and my personal favorite, Erick Strickland. But it's 2006, and the Lakers blew a 3-1 series lead by taking game 5 off with a "happy to be up" mentality. The Mavs can't let that happen.

This series is far from over. The Mavs are playing the defending champions. That may not mean much to some, but these guys know how to win, even when down 1-3. They've proved it time and time again, so it is imperative for the Mavs win game 5. Any momentum the Spurs get will be exponentially harmful to the Mavs. Here's what I liken this game 5 to...

In James Bond movies, Bond always gets captured. His nemesis (Goldfinger, Blofeld, whomever) ALWAYS wastes enough time telling 007 the plan to destroy the world that Bond finds a way to get out of the situation and thwart the plan. Right now, the Mavs have beat the Spurs up, tied them to a chair, and have a gun to their collective head. All they have to do is pull the trigger and not waste time telling the Spurs their plan to go on to the Western Conference Finals. I'm a huge Bond fan, but I just never understood why he wasn't just killed. Here's the Mavs' chance to correct Fleming and Broccoli's plot flaw.

Easier said that done. But the position the Mavs are in is one that Mark Cuban couldn't have dreamed up while swimming in his Scrooge McDuck coin pool. Up 3-1 on the Spurs! The Mavs of yore (3 years ago) couldn't get past the Kings, and the biggest lead they had over them was one game. Now, it's two with a chance to put it away.

Don't dilly dally, guys. Finish the job and get on with your mission.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Most Painful Win I Have Ever Enjoyed

In January, my friend, Jim, and I agreed that we were going to see the Cavs play a home game because Cleveland is only a 4 hour drive. A few weeks later, we pinpointed April 1 as the game to see. It was a Saturday afternoon game against Dwyane Wade, Shaq, and the rest of the Heat. I Love Wade. Jim Loves King James. When we looked for tickets, it was 100 bucks for upper level seats. If we were going to shell out 100, we figured we may as well go all out. We nearly pulled the trigger on midcourt courtside tickets for $700. We just couldn't do it. Actually, I was all about it. I was getting money for my birthday, and I was more than happy to blow it all to see Wade and 'Bron 'Bron courtside. Jim backed out. No big deal, right? Wrong. Bill Simmons called it the best game of the year. Wade and 'Bron 'Bron each scored over 40 and nearly had triple doubles. It was close throughout. I was so pissed when I saw how the game turned out. I thought I missed out on the game of the year, and I could have been courtside.

Why is this story relevant?

My last exam was Saturday morning at 8:30. My uncle was in town for a conference and to see Rochester since he missed it (for reasons I will never understand). Earlier in the week, he had invited me to dinner, and I accpeted thinking that the Mavs were playing on Saturday afternoon. Oops. Dinner was at 8. I told my buddy, Ryan, to text me after every quarter with a score update. I called him at halftime to get an update. We hadn't even been served our meal yet. My Dad called me to tell me the Mavs sucked after they blew their lead. Ryan called to tell me Dirk went down before free throws. I was freaking out. When my phone rang a couple minutes later, it was my other Mavs friend, Brett. I was afraid to answer. Here's the conversation.

Me: Hey, I couldn't watch the game--
Brett: Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$!
Me: Did the Mavs win?
Brett: Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$!
Me: Yes or No?
Brett: Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$!
Me: I hate you and hope you choke on a cheesesteak.
Brett: Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$! Holy &*#$!

Ryan called me and told me about Ginobili's Brandt-like ballhandling at the end of the game, Stack's genius move to try to miss a free throw, and Horry's shot at the buzzer. Best Mavs game of the year, and I missed it. I thought nothing could top that Heat/Cavs game, but I would have rather missed that game courtside than missed this Mavs game on television. It hurt that bad.

My Mom recorded the replay on ESPN on our DVR, and I just got to watch it (while eating Chipotle!). And to be honest, I couldn't really notice much about the game. I knew the outcome and the minutia at the end of the game, so I couldn't get into it. But there were two things glaringly obvious about the game.

1. Devin Harris is the man of the series. His ability to drive and draw and a foul and his speed to keep up with Tony Parker has won the past two games for us. Personally, I didn't think he was ready to step up in a playoff series, especially one against the defending champs, but he has proven me wrong. The more Devin plays and draws guys toward the basket, the better the Mavs are.

2. The Mavs are in trouble on defense. Tim Duncan is owning the paint on offense. I have no problem with the D's going out to guard him and collectively getting 18 fouls, but they're getting their fouls on other guys too. I'm not knocking our center group; I'm pointing out the fact that Tim Duncan is doing whatever he wants. In the fourth quarter, the Mavs went away from what was working so well. Doubling Duncan when he puts the ball on the floor. Stick with that, and if he takes a basket and makes it, fine, he beat a double team and deserves it. If he misses, he should be in no position to get an offensive rebound since he has to fight with two Mavericks over the board. Too many times in the fourth quarter, Duncan would get the ball put it on the floor and make the basket without any help defense.

After Game 2, every analyst was saying that the Mavs can blow the Spurs out but questioned whether they could grind out a close win. The Mavs answered on Saturday night with a gimpy superstar for the most important part of the game. The Mavs clearly outplayed the Spurs for the third time in this series (out of three games for all you who are mathematically challenged). The problem is the Mavs are up 2-1. After outplaying a team 3 times, you should be up 3-0. Do you really think the Spurs are going to be outplayed in more games? It's hard to think that the Spurs, the defending champions, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Ginobili, Horry, Finley, and Popovich will lose 3 games in a row and be outplayed 4 times in a row.

Can it happen? Yes. Will it happen? I'll be watching to find out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Didn't See That One Coming

I said the Mavs would win in a nail-biter. Despite the 21 point win, it was a nail-biter. I would get nervous everytime the Spurs got the ball. I didn't want them to score, ever. Every basket made me think the Spurs were going on a run. That's just how much I respect the Spurs. No lead is safe to me.

But the Mavs were impressive. They built a big lead while Duncan was sitting, and they answered every basket with another one. Although I did get nervous when Brent Barry hit that three to get it within 14. But that's the closest the Spurs ever got. That wasn't the most impressive part about the game.

How about the Spurs' last lead of the game? 1-0. That's right. The Mavs went on a 113-90 run to end the game. They had an 11 point lead in the first quarter. The Mavs lost a close, winnable game on Saturday, losing round 1 of a seven round fight. When the bell rung for round 2, they didn't come out working a jab, they came out throwing haymakers. How sweet was it watching Devin Harris, Josh Howard, and Jason Terry running a 3-on-2 fastbreak? How weird was it seeing Dirk force Parker and Ginobili to miss lay-ups? How awesome was it watching the Mavs get a defensive rebound and seeing Avery Johnson move his right arm in a frantic circular motion to move the ball faster? And how funny was it seeing Nick Van Exel get ejected and yell "&%$# you" at the refs? And that was all in the first half. I was fine with a cruise control second half. If the Mavs started forcing a bigger lead, they could have very easily lost it.

What should we expect to see in Game 3? Well, I think Reggie Miller (not surprisingly my favorite color analyst) hit the nail right on the head when he said that the Spurs have a bunker mentality and will come back with a vengance on Saturday. After being embarrassed at home, they are going to want to return the favor. So, it's time for the Mavs to bear down and hold homecourt.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Game One Was Just One Game

The title says it all.

No one is screaming that the Mavs are totally screwed. No one is counting the Mavs out. And the biggest optimist, myself, refuses to even alter his prediction of Mavs in 6. Here's why...

The Mavs lost to the Spurs at home in the playoffs by 2 points. I'm not going to say the game should have gone into overtime had Jerry Stackhouse driven to the hoop instead of dribbling away from the basket breaking every basketball rule I ever knew in crunchtime. The point is that the opportunity to win the game was there, so who's to say it won't be there on Tuesday night? I'm not.

Another reason for Mavs fans to be optimistic is that Dirk was manhandled all game by Bruce Bowen all game. And the game not only was in reach but very winnable. The other guys are stepping up, and the big guys from Game 1 were obviously Stack's offense and Damp's defense. I felt more comfortable when Stack had the ball than anyone else (something maybe I should regret, but he kept the Mavs in the game with his offense, so it's unfair to criticize his bonehead play).

Finally, the refs in Game 1 were deplorable. I'm going to give you my opinion on NBA referees. I think they should be able to do whatever they want as long as it's even throughout the game. Refs can vary from game to game on how much contact they'll allow, but if you're going to let Tim Duncan throw his body into Erick Dampier's under the bakset when Damp's hands are up and feet are set and call a foul, then call the foul when Jason Terry is driving the lane and someone hits his shoulder on the way up. The game wasn't one-sided, but I will say it was unfair. Having said that, it may have been better for the Mavs to be away from the free throw line since they shot below 70%.

The Mavericks were aggressive on offense and efficient on defense (you rarely saw someone take an uncontested shot, the only one I can think of is Bruce Bowen's game winner). The Mavs even had a pretty decent play at the end of the game to force overtime, so I see no reason to be worried about the series. We all knew the Mavs were going to lose a game or two or three if they were going to win, so it's time for the next game. And even if they go down 0-2, they can easily turn that back to 2-2.

Look for Dirk to be assertive in Game 2. And watch out for Jason Terry from 3. He seems to be a little upset about his performance in Game 1 (as he should be). Free throw shooting better improve. And pray that Dampier plays defense like he did in Game 1. Mavs should win in a nail-biter.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Inevitability

Here it is, folks. For months, fans have known this day would come. Mavs vs. Spurs in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. The only question about this series wasn't if it was going to happen, but where game 1 would be played when it started. Well, after the Mavs let off a stink bomb at the end of the season, San Antonio ran away with homecourt, and the Mavs looked beatable. But now...

Well, we'll get to that in a second. Let's point out all of the weaknesses in this Spurs team first.

Health Mavs fans have every right to complain about injuries, but the Spurs' three best players are all hurt in some way shape or form. Notice how I didn't mention injuries when talking about the Spurs. Their players are playing hurt, not injured. Sean Salisbury will explain you the difference about 293847 times throughout the course of next year's NFL season. The Spurs are hobbled, and Tony Parker's limp to the locker room in game 6 was the highlight of my weekend.

Fatigue The Spurs will start the series on 36 hours rest, jet lagged rest might I add. Meanwhile, after a 4 game sweep and a week of practice and preparation for the Spurs, the Mavs are primed and ready to go like a man who just got off a submarine. And yes, the Mavericks have been preparing for the Spurs. Avery isn't crazy enough to think Ron Artest and Bonzi Wells could beat the Spurs by themsevles, especially when Brad Miller was taking money from the NBA to throw the games. Is it enough to give the Mavs an edge in game? We'll see.

Center Position For all you Nazr Mohammed fans, go look up his stats. Yeah, they suck. And if you don't know how bad Rasho is, go ask Stephen A. Smith. I would rather have any of the three Mavs' centers than Rasho or Nazr. I won't go as far to say Pavel Podkolzin is better than them because that's just mean, but Rasho and Nazr can't match up with the Big D's (Diop, Damp, DJ).


That's 3 weaknesses. A big drop from last series' opponent, the Grizz. The Mavs had them beat in every facet of the game. Those are the only edges the Mavs have. And just to be fair, we should also look at what the Spurs have the Mavs beat in.

Tony Parker This guy can drive to the basket like none other. He scares me more than anyone else on the Spurs. And the fact that his mind is clear every game because he knows he's banging the hottest chick out there takes his game to a new level.

3 Point Shooting Brent Barry, Finmaster, Van Exel, Robert Horry, Bruce Bowen. All of them can threes like it's their job. Because it is! At least one of them will be feeling it from downtown, a luxury the Mavs don't have without Van Horn.

Swagger The Mavs may be flying high, but they are not the defending champs. It's hard to take down the champs. It took the Spurs 7 games last year to beat Detroit, and the year before that, the Lakers needed a miracle Derek Fisher jumper. This won't be easy.


So how do the Mavs use the Spurs' weaknesses to counter the Spurs' strengths? If it were easy, then anyone could be a coach, even someone like, say, Sam Mitchell. Oh, he is? So I guess it is easy. Oh, it's not? Well, let me take a crack at it anyway.

The Spurs' health issue will hurt Tony Parker a lot. That limp was genuine despite what Tim Duncan says. And Eva probably won't make matters better by being around. I could just see the Spurs trainers saying after the game last night, "Listen, I know she's hot, but she cannot touch your thigh. This thing could break. Give her a toy or something, but you are not allowed to have sex with her." Ha, fat chance.

The fatigue is going to be a problem for the Spurs' swagger. If the first two games are close, the Mavs will be at a great advantage because their legs will be better rested than the Spurs'. The will to win may give out to being flat out tired. I'm not saying this is something to bank on, but it's at least something to think about.

The final question is how wil the lack of Spurs' centers will help the Mavs defend the 3? Well, when Robert Horry starts at center, that leaves the Mavs to guard the perimeter, right? Wrong. By starting Horry at center, it will pull either Dirk or one of the D's out of the paint leaving Tony Parker available to drive to the basket. And if the Mavs play a zone to protect the paint, someone will be left open on the perimeter to hit an open three. So what could the Mavs do? My answer is much easier said than done. Play good help defense. Yeah, Dirk is going to be pulled away from the basket making it that much easier for Parker to drive or dish, so the Mavs must be aware of who's leaving to take the paint and subsequently guard the perimeter. I wish I had a more strategic answer to this problem, but the Spurs are just that damn good.

Of course the whole Tony Parker/3 Point Shooters problem could be alleviated if the Spurs keep Nazr or Rasho in the game for extended periods of time. But I doubt it.


When I found out my exam schedule this semester, I flipped out. I have exams on 4 straight days. You won't find anyone at my school with such a death wish. When I realized a few weeks ago that the Mavs/Spurs series would fall during exam time, I almost started crying. I was on a path to fail out of school because I couldn't possibly studying knowing the Mavs were playing arguably the most important series in its history. Last night was euphoric for me because I found out that the games are on Sunday, Tuesday, then Saturday. It couldn't have worked out more perfectly for me. I have an exam on Wednesday night, so a Tuesday night break was planned into my studying (Yes, I planned out my studying. I have a 10 day plan on the dry erase board in my room).

So tomorrow, I will be watching the game. I will be wearing a jersey. I will have followed all my Mavs routines for a playoff game. And I honestly think the Mavs can win game 1. The Spurs are already upset about playing on 36 hours rest, and while they may not be planning on losing game 1, they have lost game 1 to the Mavs before and gone on to win in 6. So game 1 won't give either team any advantage. In fact, there are going to be two key games to the series, games 3 and 5. If a team wins both 3 and 5 and hasn't won the series yet, it will win game 7. If they split 3 and 5, then the Spurs are at a serious advantage with homecourt.

What does all of the mean for the series? Well, it's obvious that these teams are closely matched. Anyone who has the Spurs in less than 6 games listens to Bill Walton too much. Anyone who has the Mavs winning in less than 6 games does not know the Mavs' history.

In fact, you have to be a moron to pick the Mavs to win this thing. They would have to win in 6, which means splitting the first two games, winning the next two at home, losing game 5 (Spurs aren't losing back against the wall game at home), and then closing out at home. That's the only halfway plausible way the Mavs could win. And what are the odds of the Mavs going up 3-1? Not that good. This thing could go 7 and the Spurs could take it then. The only reason why I wrote this whole thing is to get us Mavs fans psyched up, but it all means nothing if these guys don't play defense.

Having said all of that, I keep on going back to the new gatorade commercial. At the very end, the narrarator says "If it all went down like it's supposed to, then why would anybody play?"

Mavs in 6.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What is the Correct Way to Hold a Broom?

With a couple minutes left in the game on Monday night, my buddy Jim came in my room to see how the Mavs were doing? I made two fists and put one on top of the other and made a movement that can only be described as like churning butter. He then showed me the proper way to use a broom. Some could blame my lack of knowledge in the household cleaning area on the fact that sweeping has never been a part of my household responsibilities (mowing the lawn, washing the cars, steaming the carpets, and cleaning our skylights however were). No, I never learned how to sweep because the Mavs never have swept a 7 game series, ever. Anyone who brought the brooms out for the three game sweep over the Garnetts in 2002 should feel ashamed. Beating a team 3 times in a row is tough but expected. Beating a team 4 times in a row, especially the 4th best team in the conference and one of the hottest coming into the playoffs is something to be proud of. So I tried the sweep, and it didn't work. Good thing the Mavs knew how to do the real thing.

As for the rest of the playoffs, here's what I would look for...

'Bron 'Bron to go 'Bron 'Bron on Washington tonight in game 5. But there's something in the back of my mind telling me that Washington wins the series. Watching them play, they look so much more talented with Arenas, Jamison, Butler, and my one time Rookie of the Year pick, Antonio Daniels!

Dwyane Wade proved last night why he, to me, is the best player in the league. Neither Kobe nor Lebron would come back from a fall like that and still contribute. Could you imagine the Bulls huddle when they saw Wade coming back? Scott Skiles was probably yelling his head off, and then Tyson Chandler elbows Hinrich and points out Wade, and they stare with a glazed look. The rest of the team looks at what the two are looking at. Ben Gordon starts cursing. Nocioni thinks of how Ginobili would react and do that. And Michael Sweetney orders a hot dog. Yes, Dwyane Wade is so powerful that he can send a fat man, Sweetney, into an eating binge DURING and NBA game that he's playing in. Bulls are done.

Could Kobe's 60 point game be coming? With Raja Bell likely suspended, and the Lakers playing in Staples, it could happen. Add on the ejection last night, and we've got ourselves a Kobe show for Game 6. I Hate the Suns.

Since I've been wrong about the other series for the past two weeks, I'll just say this: If the Kings win, there will be a Game 7.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Don't Get Those Brooms Out Yet

Picture this: After a day of drinking that started at around 7 in the morning, a college kid stumbles back to his room to watch his favorite team play in a road playoff basketball game. The smell of alcohol makes his stomach turn, so instead of grabbing a beer, he puts on his best team shirt, one that says DIRRRRRRRK on it. The tip happens, and he doesn't notice. The first quarter ends, and he still has no clue what is going on. All he can remember is saying "Josh Howard is on fire, and Jason Terry is playing like crap." At halftime, he puts his head back in the chair and his eyes close. He regroups and realizes that may be he should lie down and watch the game in comfort. On the way to his bedroom, he feels something come up from his stomach. BUT he pushes it back down. He lies in bed with a blanket over his head and listens to the game playing on the television. With about 4 minutes left in the third quarter, he gets out of his daze and watches the game with the blanket covering his entire body except for his left eye. At the end of the third, he sits up in bed to watch. Stomach still unsettled and still very drunk. His team is playing okay, but he still doesn't remember ever having a lead. His team is close to overtaking, but it can't get over the top. The next thing he knows, the player whose picture is on his shirt, cans a 3 and makes a vintage goofy face. Now, our drunk college friend is wide awake and is seriously into the game. Other drunkards come into his room to see what the rutkus is about. But poor defense comes into play, which is expected after finally getting a lead for the first time since early in the first quarter. The team's only chance is for poor free throw shooting, AND THEY GET IT! The kid's legs are shaking out of excitement. Down by 3 with thirty seconds left, the team misses a short floater. Sick feeling. Missed putback. Even sicker. Ball is batted to the backcourt where a sure collision is about to take place. Namesake takes a rainbow that reminds the kid of a man on the telecast. The kid leaps out of bed in joy yelling any variation of the form YES. The stomach disagrees. The kid fights it and tells himself his team will win if he can push down his stomach troubles. Opposing team has a driving lay-up at the buzzer. Something's coming up...

But I pushed it back down! No puke! Mavs win in OT! Dirk hits a 3 that made Reggie Miller say WOW. Dirk played defense for an entire game! Mike Fratello wore the ugliest shirt/tie combo I have ever seen an NBA coach wear since Nellie wore those fish ties!

I don't remember much from the game. Cowlishaw wrote a column about how great the defense was. Can't argue that. But Dirk's 3! What can I say? As a fan, you just know euphoria. Ask Lakers' fans (if there are any true diehards).

As for Game 4, don't expect a walk in the park. The Mavs are still on the road. The Grizz still want to win a playoff game. But of course, I think the Mavs will win.

They need this sweep for two reasons: One is to finally close out a series for once in their recent history. The only seven game series the Mavs have one in the last 5 years have been gone seven games. That's not right. The other is that if they win this game, they will face a team (most likely Spurs, but I've got a wait-and-see attitude right now) that will have played a six or 7 game series. This is a must-win just like games 1, 2, and 3 were must-wins.

Let's light 'em up.