The Dallas Mavericks are in Los Angeles to face the Lakers, the start of a four-game road trip. It’s a battle of two teams involved in a playoff-chasing triangle along with the Utah Jazz.
Utah leads the trio and currently owns the Western Conference’s 8th and final playoff spot. This will be the fourth and final season meeting between the Mavs and Lakers, the Mavs looking to even the series 2-2.
Dirk Nowitzki’s go ahead three led the Mavs to a Saturday afternoon victory. Nowitzki put on a shooting exhibit going 14-for-17 with 35 points. Brandan Wright had a big game with 17 points and 13 boards.
The Mavs survived a fourth quarter Nate Robinson explosion (25 points; 7-for-7 3PT) and 50 combined points from Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.
Later that evening the Lakers edged the Sacramento Kings 103-98 on the road. Kobe Bryant moved up to 4th on the all-time scoring list, passing Wilt Chamberlain. Dwight Howard led the Lakers with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Already without Metta World Peace (knee) Steve Nash exited the Kings game and would not return. Nash (hamstring/hip) is OUT for tonight’s game.
Pau Gasol has averaged 10.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in five games since his return from plantar fasciitis.
This game decides the fate of the Mavericks. That’s my take. A loss would set the Mavs at a major disadvantage to both the Lakers and Jazz – forced to win outright over both. The Jazz already own the tiebreaker over Dallas and a loss to LA tonight would give it to the Lakers.
Dallas’ level of play has improved dramatically of late and much has to do with Dirk’s dominance.
Mavs will once again need Dirk to be special.
Playoff Picture Update:
MAVERICKS - 10th seed in West; 2 GB of the Utah Jazz (8th) and 1.5 GB of Los Angeles Lakers (9th) for final playoff spot.
LAKERS - 9th seed in West; 0.5 GB of the Utah Jazz (8th) and 1.5 games ahead of 10th seeded Dallas Mavericks.
Mavericks at Lakers tip at 9:30 p.m. CT and airs on TNT.
For a brief moment, during the Olympics and while looking into the eyes of the USA basketball team; I caught a glimpse of something special. I saw those millionaire superstars putting money and contracts aside and playing hard for a cause. Playing for their country and representing our brand of basketball against the world. Then last night we learned about this Dwight Howard trade and my love for the NBA took a hit. I was quickly brought back to the reality of today’s game. These superstars, with exception of a few (Mostly Texas based) always get what they want. They want flashy lights, endorsement deals, and easy wins. Respect for their country is one thing, but respect for the city they once represented is another. They could care less. They don’t care that they’re leaving cities with young fans that live and breathe with their team. They could care less that a cities economy can depend on that team at times. These players don’t care about parity or the repercussions of their moves when going to big markets. Today’s NBA superstars are full of pride but only for themselves, nothing external. It’s a bad lesson taught to today’s youth, and it’s terrible for the game.
I once wrote a blog after hearing an ESPN personality predict the OKC Thunder and Miami Heat Finals series in the middle of last year’s NBA season. I couldn’t believe the nerve of this guy for predicting the series based on “Star Power” alone. The saddest part is that he was right. In that blog I tried to stick up for other teams in the league, believing that they had a chance, i.e. Mavericks, Pacers, and Bulls. I was wrong. As if I were consoling a friend that was going through some hard times by telling him to think positive and that it’s not a certainty that the bad thing you think will happen, will happen. That bad thing happened. Hope was lost.
But the great thing about sports is that THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR! Right?
Another NBA offseason has come, and another joke of an NBA transaction has transpired. Not only did the Lakers acquire Dwight Howard, but they also kept Pau Gasol and gained Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. They shed a player in Andrew Bynum that they weren’t fond of anyways as he was sent to the 76ers and also lost Josh McRoberts. What’s that? You’ve never heard of McRoberts? Neither have a majority of Laker fans. And in a weird twist, the Lamar Odom move last season ended up opening a door for Steve Nash. The Lakers got what they wanted……again.
Everyone keeps telling me that it’s no big deal because Howard hasn’t agreed to resign in LA in the offseason of 2013. Don’t believe that. It’s obvious that the guy loves attention and loves getting what he wants. Plus he’s been in LA all summer long; mucking it up with the locals. He’s been seen at Dodger games, getting ice cream at Sprinkles, and walking around Beverly Hills. Oh yea, it just seems soooo terrible in LA. Why on earth would he want to resign there?
There’s also the fact that the Lakers have NEVER been without a powerful center on the team. Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Bynum, now Howard. So I don’t see the Lakers letting Dwight Howard get away next summer.
Also, what in the WORLD was Orlando thinking? I know they were concerned about Bynum not resigning in Orlando so the straight up trade didn’t interest them. But after months of this Dwight drama, I assumed they were holding out for some key pieces. They ended up with Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington from Denver. Decent players but not worth the time and effort put into to the Dwightmare. It seems that all other teams in the trade got better (Lakers, Nuggets, Sixers) and the team that was holding the biggest piece, the Magic, got worse.
Hands down, without a doubt, the absolute worst part about this whole trade is the fact that the media has started with the predictions. Just last night, SECONDS after learning of the Dwight trade, the first tweet surfaced. (Dallas media, Dwaine Price Ft. Worth Star Telegram)
“@DwainPrice: Its official. The #Lakers will beat the #Heat in six games in the 2013 NBA Finals.”
Then another, minutes later……..
“@DwainPrice: With Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, Kobe is going to pass Michael Jordan and win 7 NBA titles.”
I thought for sure he was being sarcastic. But after a few twitter exchanges with him I learned that he was dead serious. That’s great!! Let’s just not even watch next year or put any other team on the floor. It’s Game. Set. Match for the NBA finals right?
I’m certain there were other tweets but the tweets above particularly bugged me due to the timing of it. Nobody knows how healthy Dwight will be. Nobody knows if Nash’s body will hold up. Nobody knows how much the pressure will get to the Lakers now that they’re a “shoe in.” It reminds of that scene in Black Sheep when Chris Farley is falling down that hill and finds a tiny twig to hold on to. “Thank you little Root, please stay strong.” My root is Howard and Nash’s back and the media pressure. But most likely, much like Farley, NBA fans will be falling to the bottom wondering, “What the hell was that all about!?”
There’s also this article from Arash Markazi of ESPN LA. It’s as unbiased as the sky is Yellow. In the article he’s basically calling out the Heat and is probably working on getting to Kinkos as soon as possible to get the “2013 NBA World Champion” banners made. These smug LA sports writers so confident that they’ll be in the Finals and so sure it will be against the Heat. “Uggghhhhh” I say with a fist in the air!!
Moves like this take away the fun of following the game. It tilts the scale so far to one direction that making a prediction on Lakers/Heat finals is an easy one to make. It will most likely come to fruition and that’s sports-depressing. I still feel that the new CBA might find a way to level out the playing field some but not as long as these teams are finding ways to land star players and somehow losing minimal assets. I also feel that regardless of the pessimism surrounding the Mavs that they have as shot to make a decent run in the playoffs. And if not, then my only hope at this point is to enjoy watching the Heat and Lakers lose as much as possible. Come playoff time, I’ll be rooting for any other team to defeat these monsters, even if it means the Spurs. Yes, it’s come to that.
With the roster now appearing to be finalized – barring any trades before the start of training camp in late September — the re-tooled Mavs now know who and when they’ll play as the NBA released the full 82-game regular-season schedule Thursday.
There’s no Christmas Day game and no Martin Luther King Jr. day game. Dirk Nowitzki and his new pals won’t be on national television at the rate that they were a season ago as defending champs. Still, the Mavs will have eight games on TNT — including the opener at the Lakers — seven on ESPN, seven on NBATV, one on ABC and two on ESPN Radio.
None of it means this won’t be one of the more intriguing seasons of Cuban’s ownership. At the moment, just about anything — from being lottery bound to a top-four finish in the Western Conference — seems possible.
We take a look at five games to circle, and why not start with the opener?
No. 1: Mavs at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 30
Not only will it be the first real game for a Mavs club that features five new key players around Nowitzki, but it will also be Steve Nash‘s debut with the Lakers. And for that matter, since we’ve already mentioned Jamison, he’ll also be wearing the purple and gold for the first time. The big question as of July 26 is if Andrew Bynum will still be calling the Staples Center home or if Dwight Howard be manning the rim and playing alongside Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Nash?
No. 2: New York Knicks at Mavs, Nov. 21
Coach Rick Carlisle predicted that Jason Kidd would receive a standing ovation when he returns to the American Airlines Center. We won’t have to wait long to find out if he’s right — and he probably is. Two-fifths of the Mavs’ championship starting lineup will suit up for the Knicks as Tyson Chandler makes his second trip back to Dallas since the title. Kidd’s last-minute departure to the Big Apple was stunning, but in retrospect it’s allowed the Mavs to add a bit more shake-n-bake to their backcourt with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.
No. 3: Mavs at Boston Celtics, Dec. 12
A trip to the Garden is always special, but now that Jason Terry will be writing ctc on his green and white sneakers, it’s extra special. And don’t think that Terry, who played eight seasons with the Mavs, won’t want to drill about 15 buckets from downtown and send his former team out of town with a loss. Terry never wanted to leave Dallas, but he knew he was no longer in their plans. He’ll try to fill the very large shoes of Ray Allen, who took his talents to South Beach. Terry won’t make his Dallas return until March 22.
No. 4: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Mavs, Jan. 18
It’ll take a few months for the Western Conference champs to make it Dallas, which isn’t a bad thing since the Mavs will need some time to break in the new rotation. Although Dallas is a drastically different team than the past two seasons, consecutive playoff series have elevated the Thunder to the top of the Mavs’ rival list, or at least just notch below the Spurs. This game will show the Mavs how far they’ve come or how far they still have to go.
No. 5: Mavs at Brooklyn Nets, March 1
Who knows if the Nets will have Dwight Howard by this first meeting of the two teams, but this game is all about Deron Williams, who spurned his hometown Mavs to re-sign with the Nets as they move to Brooklyn. In the grand scheme of things, this game will mean little, but the free-agent process was emotional for Williams and the two teams, and that could make this the most intense Mavs-Nets game of all-time. Less than three weeks later, Williams will make his return to Dallas. He won’t be staying.
Jeff Caplan joined ESPNDallas.com in December 2009. Jeff covers the Mavericks, Rangers and colleges. He has a wealth of experience in the area, covering multiple beats in his 11-plus years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“Pau’s got to be more assertive,” Bryant said. “He’s the guy out there that we need. When he’s getting the ball he’s looking to pass. He’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to shoot the ball. He’s got to drive the ball to the basket and he will in the next game.”
Gasol didn’t attempt a field goal in the fourth quarter and passed up perhaps his best look of the quarter with 33.9 seconds left with the game tied at 98. He threw a soft pass toKevin Durant, who hit a 3-pointer to put the Thunder up 101-98 with 13.7 seconds left. Oklahoma City now takes a 3-1 series lead back home for Game 5 on Monday.
“It was just a bad read,” Bryant said of Gasol’s turnover. “It was just a bad read on Pau’s part. It happens.”
What can’t happen in Bryant’s eyes, however, is Gasol being passive on offense when Oklahoma City’s defense keys in on him and Andrew Bynum.
“He’s just looking to swing the ball too much, he’s just got to shoot it,” Bryant said of Gasol. “We played pretty much the same way the entire game. The second half what they did was front Andrew, so when they front Andrew and in the fourth quarter they crowd me, the other guys have to be more aggressive, simple as that.”
After the game, Gasol had no excuse for his key turnover but made it clear that it wasn’t the difference in the game.
“It’s definitely one play, one mistake, but there was a lot of mistakes in that fourth quarter and a lot of mistakes during the game,” Gasol said. “Obviously if I could’ve gone back, maybe I could’ve shot it, and I would’ve. But it’s one play — obviously at a critical time — but I don’t feel like we lost the game on one turnover. There’s plenty of bad plays or mistakes in the fourth.”
Although Gasol would like to be more assertive on offense, he said he was simply trying to make the best play at the end of the game by finding the open player.
“If you look, I didn’t take a shot the whole fourth quarter,” Gasol said. “That’s a reality, too. I always try to make the right play, I try to get in the lane, I saw the defense collapse on me and I thought I had a good look to [Metta World Peace] open at the 3-point line. It’s a play that I made a bunch of times. But obviously his length helped him get that steal. I could’ve shot it. I could’ve kept dribbling and maybe posted up. I could’ve done something else. But I’m a guy that makes pretty good reads out there.”
World Peace did his best to take the blame for Gasol’s turnover after the game.
“I support him,” World Peace said. “I’ll take the blame for that. Maybe I should’ve cut. He saw me open, I should’ve cut. It’s my fault.”
While Gasol didn’t attempt a shot in the final period, Bryant was 2-for-10, missing both of his 3-point attempts. Bryant said the shots he took late in the game were out of necessity with his teammates, Gasol in particular, not being aggressive enough.
“The shots that I took were tough shots,” Bryant said. “I was forced to take tough shots and they didn’t fall for me tonight. I made a couple, I felt like I got fouled on a couple and didn’t get the whistle but still they were tough looks. So either we have to free myself up to get better looks in the fourth quarter or other guys have to be aggressive, one or the other.”
Gasol, who has had to take a diminished role offensively this season behind Bryant and Bynum, said he would like to be more aggressive but simply didn’t have any looks in the final quarter except for the one he wished he wouldn’t have passed up.
“I am unselfish, sometimes that kind of plays against me,” Gasol said. “But no looks, I really didn’t have no looks all quarter long. That was a look that I had but unfortunately I made a mistake.”
Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum put up their usual big numbers. Their supporting cast came up even bigger, sealing the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 92-88 victory over Denver on Sunday night that put the Nuggets on the brink of elimination.
Bryant had 22 points and Bynum added 19 to help the Lakers overcome a six-point halftime deficit and take a 3-1 lead in the first-round playoff series that they can wrap up Tuesday night when the series shifts back to Staples Center for Game 5.
Sixth-man Jordan Hill had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and recently acquired guard Ramon Sessionsand reserve point guard Steve Blake each hit crucial 3-pointers in the final minute as the Lakers broke free.
Those were the players the Nuggets preferred had the ball in crunch time, and Bryant wasn’t at all hesitant to oblige.
“Sessions has hit big 3s. Even when I was out he hit some big 3s to win games. He did it again tonight. I have confidence in him,” Bryant said. “If you’re observing the game in the third quarter I hit Sessions for an open shot, Blake for an open shot and (Matt) Barnes for an open shot and they missed all three of them. George (Karl), being observant as he is, saw I was (ticked). I was and didn’t think I would trust them at the end of the game to knock down those shots, but they stepped up and knocked them down.”
With the game tied at 86, Danilo Gallinari was covering Bryant when a hard screen from Pau Gasol sent the Italian to the floor grabbing his throat. While Gallinari stayed down, Sessions’ 3-pointer from just in front of the Nuggets bench put the Lakers ahead 89-86 with 48 seconds remaining.
“It was a tough pick, you’ve got to expect that in the playoffs,” Gallinari said. “I’ve got to be ready and play defense. Unfortunately, they hit a big shot out of that.”
Andre Miller was whistled for basket interference at the other end, and Bryant found Blake for a 3-pointer from the left corner with 18.9 seconds left for a six-point cushion, L.A.’s biggest of the night.
Blake got a bear hug from Bryant during the 20-second timeout.
“Those moments don’t scare him,” Bryant said.
“It’s always good when you get a hug from Kobe. It means you did something right,” Blake said. “It was a total team effort for us tonight.”
Sessions, whose acquisition from Cleveland this spring led to the trade of five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher, finished with 12 points, and Blake had 10.
“They got the two 3s to go down at the end of the game,” Karl said, “but conceptually what we’re trying to do at the end of the game is not let Kobe, Bynum and Gasol beat you.”
Instead, it was Sessions, Blake and Hill that did the damage.
Gallinari led the Nuggets with 20 points, and Miller had 15.
After torching the Lakers for 50 points combined in the previous two games, Ty Lawson was held to 11 points and Nuggets big menKenneth Faried and JaVale McGeeweren’t nearly as effective on offense or disruptive defensively as they were in Game 2, when they combined for 28 points and 30 rebounds.
Together, they had 14 points and 11 rebounds Sunday.
Bynum, who blamed his scoreless first half 48 hours earlier on failing to properly prepare in the pregame, was much more active early on, scoring 11 in the first half, which ended with the Lakers trailing 51-45.
The game was briefly delayed with 1:10 left in the first half when a female fan started walking across the court while the Nuggets were setting up a play. The woman walked several steps onto the court as Lawson brought the ball past halfcourt. Officials blew the whistle to stop the play and the woman was escorted away by security.
The woman, identified as 20-year-old Savannah McMillan-Christmas of Denver, was cited for trespassing.
Al Harrington scored nine points in his return to the Nuggets’ lineup. He started out with a clear face mask protecting his nose that was broken Friday night by an inadvertent elbow from Bynum, but he ditched the mask in a matter of minutes.
Harrington missed his first six shots but then sank four straight, including a 3-pointer that put the Nuggets ahead 76-75 early in the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets, who have hung tough since getting blown out in the series opener, face a daunting task of winning three straight, including two at the Staples Center, where they never led in Games 1 and 2.
“Losing always gets old. Losing is not fun. I’m not unhappy with my team, I’m not happy with where we’re at, but we still have a series to play,” Karl said. “I don’t think it’s an impossible challenge. I think it’s a great challenge for this young team. For me, I’ve been blessed with having great runs in the playoffs and I think I probably have one or two more left in me in my lifetime. I’d like to see it come this year.”
Miller stole the ball from Barnes and drew a clear-path foul from Barnes five minutes before halftime. … For the second straight game, McGee’s mother, Pamela McGee, who played in the WNBA, was seated courtside near the Nuggets’ bench. At one point, her son jumped over Bynum, who was whistled for traveling as he found his path to the basket blocked by his counterpart 7-foot center.