Bernucca: Have Pacers Lost Belief in Themselves?

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Believe it or not, there’s someone out there who doesn’t think the Indiana Pacers are coming apart at the seams. Lance Stephenson

“Everybody goes through this,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said last week after San Antonio manhandled Indiana, 103-77, on the Pacers’ home court. “I’m not worried about them. They’ll still make it to the Eastern Conference finals and they’ll still play Miami.”

Parker is somewhat right. From time to time, every championship contender has a stretch during a season where they look ordinary. Addled. Even awful at times.

Last month, the Miami Heat lost three in a row and seven of 11, including a home contest to Denver and a visit to New Orleans after which Chris Bosh plainly said, “We suck.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder welcomed back Russell Westbrook as they came out of the All-Star break and immediately lost three straight and five of eight, including a home loss to Cleveland and a road setback to the L.A. Lakers. The Houston Rockets were a pedestrian 8-8 in December, losing at home and on the road to Sacramento, at Utah and being blasted at Oklahoma City and Indiana.

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Sixth Man Rankings: Championing Dallas’ second unit, Vince Carter is thriving

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As the Dallas Mavericks compete for one of the most competitive No. 8 seeds in NBA history, they’ve relied heavily on Vince Carter to provide veteran leadership and production to the team’s second lineup.

While he is the team’s sixth man by assignment, coach Rick Carlisle still considers him one of Dallas’ most important players. This is evident by Carter’s defined role in the final minutes of close games.

Carter is averaging nearly seven fourth-quarter minutes per game in 2013-2014, nearly two more minutes than he receives in any other quarter.

While his per game stats of 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists indicate that Carter’s a shell of the All-Star he used to be, it’s misleading to think that Carter is fading. When extended out to 36 minutes, Carter’s 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists show he’s still a versatile contributor.

Moreover, Carter’s playing like he embraces efficiency more than ever:

Over his last 20 games, Carter’s offensive rating has exceeded 110 points per 100 possessions.

This has done wonders for Dallas’ second unit. Reunited with former Nets teammate Devin Harris, the Mavericks’ bench has transformed from a weakness in recent years to a relative strength.

“As a whole, the five-man second unit of Devin Harris, Jae Crowder, Nowitzki, (Brandan) Wright, and Carter is scoring 117.4 points and allowing just 87.8 per 100 possessions this season, both elite marks. The unit’s 29.6 net rating — the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions — is 5th-best in the NBA since Jan. 18 among lineups with at least 50 minutes played. (Jan. 18 was Harris’s season debut.)” - Per Bobby Karalla of Mavs.com

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As you can see, Carter has found his comfort zones on the court. When Carlisle puts Carter alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon in the rotation, Dallas’ perimeter threats open up driving lanes for Monta Ellis.

On to the rankings.

RANK Player RUNDOWN RECENT
1 Phoenix Suns MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: ”No player has logged more minutes as a reserve. Morris has averaged 16.7 points on a sterling .617 true shooting percentage since the break, all off the bench. Phoenix has outscored opponents with him on the floor in 16 of his last 23 outings.” – Bradford Doolittle 1
2 Taj Gibson headshot TAJ GIBSON, F, CHICAGO: Gibson has earned seven starts this season and looks poised to take over the role full time next season. In those seven games, Gibson has averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 rebounds. For this season, though, he still qualifies as a sixth man. 2
3 Oklahoma City Thunder REGGIE JACKSON, G, OKLAHOMA CITY: Took a few games off with a back injury but is still shooting better than 40% from deep on the month. 3
4 SAS_Ginobili_Manu MANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: San Antonio’s dominance has actually hurt Ginobili’s case. He’s averaging such few minutes over the team’s recent surge that his per game numbers now fail to tell the story of his on-court efficiency.  4
5 Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014 VINCE CARTER, G-F, DALLAS: He’s shooting 45% from deep since the All-Star Break, keeping the Mavericks in the fight for a spot in the playoffs.  
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DROPOUTS: Jamal Crawford (5).

FIVE TO WATCH: Alec Burks, G, Utah; Patty Mills, G, San Antonio; J.R. Smith, G, New York; D.J. Augustin, G, Chicago; Nick Young, G, LA Lakers.

OTHER RANKINGS: Rookie | Most Improved | MVP | Power

Jacob Eisenberg is a student at Emory University, spending the spring semester abroad in Brazil, and covers the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Check out his website and click here to follow him on Twitter. 

SH Blog: Iguodala says Sixers fans used to curse at him all the time, Rondo denies recruitment from Melo

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If you know me or follow me on twitter, you know that I follow the Golden State Warriors more closely than any other team in the league. No player intrigues me the way Stephen Curry does (can you blame me?), and the belief that this team may be good enough to come out of the West became a reality when the team acquired Andrew Bogut two seasons ago. They were half way there to prove this point last season, and look to make even a bigger mark this season with an improved roster.

Of course, they haven’t been nearly as good as expected up to this point, but that is the consequence of some unfortunate injuries (and the often-awful presence that is David Lee). The key to any amazing season involves having some good luck, and that part hasn’t happened for Golden State just yet. They did dodge a bullet when Andre Iguodala avoided serious damage to his injured hamstring, though, and things should become much smoother upon his return.

Anyway, I happily provide you with absolutely fantastic articles on some of the key players of the Warriors in today’s blog, along with other goodies, as usual. 

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Bernucca: Like many adored stars, Wade gets a pass

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Wade meets the PresidentWhen you’re an adored star in this league, you get a pass on a lot of things.

And Dwyane Wade got a pass for an absolutely rockhead play in Miami’s inexplicable loss to Boston on Saturday.

The Heat led by four with less than two seconds to play. On their home floor. Against the Celtics. And lost. In regulation.

And most of it was on Wade, who (a) faltered in the clutch; (b) made his own strategic decision without any input from the coaches; (c) poorly executed his strategy; and (d) opened a door to a loss that had pretty much been closed.

And Wade got a pass. Understandably, from his coach and teammates. But also from the fans and the media.

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SH Blog: D’Antoni questions how Houston is better for Howard, Lakers want LeBron or Melo

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Mike D'AntoniWhen Dwight Howard left the Los Angeles Lakers and bolted to the Houston Rockets, we heard and saw the reactions of plenty – perhaps most notably from Kobe Bryant, who immediately unfollowed his former teammate on Twitter upon hearing the news.

The one person most relevant to the situation that we’ve yet to hear from had been Mike D’Antoni, whose offense was cited as a critical reason for Howard’s desire for departure. So what did the coach think of his time with the center? How did D’Antoni feel about Howard’s decision to join the Rockets? Vincent Bonsignore of Daily News has all the details below:

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