Spurs-Mavericks Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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benched spursWell, we might as well start things by reminding everyone how the Spurs should be the team calling themselves the defending champions, except for the part where Gregg Popovich had his three best players on the bench at the end of Game 6 in Miami.

That’s when we stopped calling him “genius” and vowed to never do so again.

So this spring, we will laud Pop with congratulations for finishing with the league’s best record, for putting together a 19-game winning streak, for replacing a top reserve (Gary Neal) with an even better reserve (Marco Belinelli) and for having so much balance on his team that not one single player merited a mention on my postseason individual awards ballot.

Tweet of the Day: Dirk Nowitzki Grateful For Encouragement

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Tuesday night Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki moved past Oscar Robertson on the NBA career scoring list with an 19-foot jump shot at the start of the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz en route to a 95-83 victory.

Nowitizki scored 21 points, moving him to 10th among the all-time scorers’ list with 26,714 points thus far in his career.

Many players took time to congratulate Dirk on his career accomplishment last night.

One player who didn’t get the chance to congratulate him Tuesday night was Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, who was busy in a losing effort to the Brooklyn Nets.

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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: 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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SH Blog: Cuban to fund HGH study; Jackson speaks about Melo’s year

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Mark_Cuban_2011Mark Cuban is putting his money where his mouth is.

And it has nothing to do with the Dallas Mavericks or the refs or David Stern.

It has everything to do with the future of sports medicine and the potential inclusion of HGH in the professional world of sports. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, Cuban is funding a study on the potential benefits of HGH use for recovering athletes. Here’s more from the story: