Nowitzki, Conley, Dragic, Stoudemire key for NBA Teams Chasing Final Playoff Spots

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With one week left in the NBA regular season, the pressure is on for two Eastern Conference teams and four Western Conference teams fighting for the final playoff spots. Millions will intently watch what transpires over the next seven days as teams face must-win games, and the effort and intensity pick up.

Each of these half-dozen teams have a player who will greatly impact the fate of their clubs the rest of the way.

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Bernucca: You Can Have the NCAA Tournament

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sportsWICHITAstate_t640I don’t like the NCAA Tournament.

I don’t like that college basketball’s regular season provides little postseason incentive. I don’t like that the coach is a bigger personality than the players. I don’t like that the games are played on neutral courts. I don’t like that one bad game or bad call or bad break can end a team’s season. I don’t like that “close” becomes a synonym for “well-played.” And I don’t like that poor play determines the outcome much more often than great play.

Most of all, I don’t like how I’m supposed to just accept that it’s fantastic and wonderful and beautiful, when it’s actually substandard basketball in a flawed format that tells me less and less every year about the game I love, which is the NBA.

I’m not trolling here. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’ve truly felt this way for a while. Part of it is admittedly a lingering distaste developed over more than a decade of working on a sports news desk and spending countless hours having to plan, preview, write, edit, update and package all of the words and numbers associated with the NCAA Tournament.

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Gambling on the Eastern Conference: Long odds on everyone not named Pacers or Heat

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jameswade

Brain-twister for you today, folks.

Go back to the start of the 2005-06 regular season, and try to name a superstar player who has represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Your answer cannot include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen.

It’s OK. Keep thinking … 

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Sprung: New York Knicks lack effort, energy, toughness at home

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NEW YORK- One of the last things you want to hear from an NBA team is acknowledging a lack of effort, but that’s exactly what you got from the New York Knickerbockers on Saturday night.

It came from the coach. It came from the players. The malodorous negativity wafted through the Knicks’ locker room after a 110-90 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. It was New York’s fifth straight loss at home as the Knicks fell to 3-6 overall.

Carmelo Anthony Shot“We’re not getting it done from an effort standpoint,” Carmelo Anthony said. “It’s like we’re not even trying right now.”

(Related: Carmelo Anthony’s Present Frustration and Questionable Future in New York)

Almost worse than not even trying, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson questioned the toughness of this, his, Knicks team. ”I just though they played harder than we played,” he said. “You’re not going to beat anybody playing soft the way we did.”

Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll agreed with Woodson. “I think tonight we took the fight to them,” he told Sheridan Hoops. “We didn’t let them get into what they wanted, didn’t let Carmelo get a lot of isolations. It was a team effort and the biggest thing going on the road is that you gotta take the fight to the team.”

It seems like the fight is being taken to the Knicks every time they step on the Garden floor. No team has more home losses right now than the Knicks’ five. That includes the bottom-feeding Jazz and Kings, who each have four.

“It is frustrating,” Anthony said after scoring 23 points on 8-for-21 shooting and reprising his role as VoluMelo. “It is a messed up nasty feeling. I am at a loss for words right now.”

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NBA Depth Chart Update

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Way back in September, we published our first depth chart. We’ve tried to keep it reasonably accurate with weekly updates, which on most Saturday afternoons are just one part of the Weekly Fantasy Planner by Jeff Nichols. Last week, with Jeff — who does the lion’s share of work tracking changes — on a foreign business trip, I forgot to fill in. Today, there simply isn’t time for much insight.