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.

Twitter reacts to Stephen Curry’s game-winner against Dallas Mavericks

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Andre Iguodala Steve Blake Stephen Curry

With the season winding down and holding just a 1 1/2 game lead over the trailing Dallas Mavericks, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors could ill-afford to lose Tuesday’s game on the road at the American Airlines Center.

After an inexplicable loss against the New York Knicks on Sunday, the Warriors knew another loss – particularly to the Mavericks – would put them in a neck and neck battle for the remainder of the season with three other teams just to make it back to the playoffs. Golden State came out blazing and shot 55 percent or better from the field for much of the game despite having to play without David Lee and Andrew Bogut, but Dallas was ready for the challenge. Dirk Nowitzki, for the most part, had his way with 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field – including six-of-eight from the 3-point line –  to go with 11 rebounds and three assists. Monta Ellis was also highly effective against his former team with 27 points and six assists. The Warriors countered with a number of weapons: Klay Thompson had 27 points, five rebounds and five assists, Andre Iguodala had 16 points on seven-of-nine shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists, Jermaine O’Neal turned back the clock with 20 points and eight rebounds, Jordan Crawford had 19 points on an impressive seven-of-10 shooting, and Draymond Green did a bit of everything with nine points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

In the end, though, Curry would have the final say, as he launched a shot over Jose Calderon with virtually no time left on the clock in overtime. 

NBA Acknowledges Another Swallowed Whistle

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noncallNEW YORK — The NBA acknowledged another mistake by its referees Sunday, saying a 3-shot foul should have been called at the end of last night’s Pelicans-Mavericks game.

“After reviewing postgame video, we have determined a foul should have been called on Dallas’ Monta Ellis for illegal contact on the arms of New Orleans’ Austin Rivers while Rivers was attempting a three-point field goal. Rivers should have been awarded three free throws with 0.6 left on the clock,” NBA vice president Rod Thorn said in a statement.

The guilty parties in this whistle-swallowing fiasco were Eric Dalen, Tony Brothers and John Goble,

To view the play, click on this link.

Rivers pleaded for a foul call as the referees were leaving the court, and coach Monty Williams said video showed Ellis had his arm across both of Rivers’ arms.

The play happened just a few feet away from Brothers, but it appeared he did not have a clear angle to see the obvious foul.

“That’s embarrassing,” said Williams. “That’s not right. A no-call in a game like that when Dirk (Nowitzki) gets the same call in the first half and they shot 45 free throws? Certainly, we’re not going to blame the game on the referees.”

 

Gambling on the Western Conference: A Free-For-All

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The Western Conference is absolutely nothing like the Eastern Conference when it comes to championship odds.

We have what I call a two-horse race in the East versus what I am going to call the six-plus team race in the West.

In the 15 previous seasons, only four teams (the Lakers, seven times; the Spurs, five times, the Mavericks, two times; the Thunder, once)  have won the Western Conference, which is a similar concept to what the Eastern Conference has gone through recently, as I outlined in this column laying out the loooong odds on anyone not from Miami or Indiana winning the East.

SH Blog: Kidd’s simplified schemes paying off for Nets; are the Cavs shopping Waiters?

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Damian LillardDamian Lillard is very good.

Okay, maybe we knew that already.

But watching him carry the Blazers to an incredible win against a Cavs team that was very much on top of their game tonight, and then cap it with a game-winning three… that was something else.

LaMarcus Aldridge is also very good, and so are Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum. But it’s Lillard who makes the whole thing work.