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.

DraftStreet Fantasy Spin: Thursday, April 3, 2014

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draftstreet At one point last night I thought I would win $1,000 in DraftStreet’s NBA Fantasy League. That didn’t happen for several reasons. Anthony Davis, my most expensive player, left the game early with back spasms. Arron Afflalo couldn’t put the ball in the ocean while playing against the measly defense of the Cleveland Cavs. Besides that, all of my other picks performed well.

Today I quickly threw a roster together and will probably make tweaks throughout the day. I contemplated using Tim Duncan but realized there’s a good possibility he doesn’t play since it’s a back-to-back. I picked up Tony Parker for $10,938, and I don’t know why he’s so cheap, maybe DraftStreet know’s something I don’t.

Dirk Nowitzki will likely be my replacement for Duncan. He performs well in big games, which today’s definitely is, Dallas goes against the LA Clippers in Los Angeles. In an OT loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday Dirk had 33 points and 11 assists, look for something similar tonight.

My DraftStreet team for Thursday

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Fresh off giving away $150,000, DraftStreet is running satellites for yet another $100,000 contest. Look for them in the NBA lobby for a chance to win a voucher to the NBA $100K Playoffs Big Score and a $20,000 first place prize. This one starts on April 19 and finishes on April 20, the two-day format being a wrinkle common to NBA playoff leagues. If you don’t have a DraftStreet account, you can sign up using this link.

Thursday’s NBA Games

San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder
Please don’t rest Tim Duncan, coach Pop. This game has all the makings of an instant classic. The Spurs are so hot I can feel it up here in Canada and the Thunder are just excellent. Durant has been playing at Hall of Fame level since February, but so have the Spurs, the winners of 19-straight. You’re foolish if you pass up Durant ($23,356) in fantasy, I would pay 40% of my cap for him, no joke. For San Antonio I like Tony Parker at only $10,938. This will be a barn burner, but I’m calling it now, Thunder will win.

Dallas Mavs at LA Clippers
This is why I love Thursday’s, two great games without all the sub .500 teams wasting our time trying to lose. Dallas had tough fortunes last game (Google Steph Curry OT dagger in Dallas) but they’re a great bounce-back team. I like Jose Calderon ($10,802) for fantasy. I think he’ll try to match the productivity of Chris Paul. For the Clippers, go with Blake Griffin ($19,804), the dude’s been a beast this year. He’s finally playing like the player everyone thought he would be.

Click here to play fantasy basketball with me.

Brett Poirier is a contributor to Sheridan Hoops.

In Their Own Words: 2014 McDonald’s All-Americans Describe Their Talents

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You’ve heard the saying: “The kids are alright.”

Well, these kids are more than alright.

As the NBA’s ever-evolving landscape of perimeter-oriented and multifaceted skill sets take the basketball world by storm on a nightly basis, the youth who aspire to compete against their heroes (in 2015 or beyond, thanks to the one-and-done rule) have keenly paid attention to the changes in the game and what they mean for their own personal development as players.

SheridanHoops caught up with nine of the 24 McDonald’s All-Americans at Tuesday’s media day to discuss their games: 

Duncan tops Durant for Western Conference Player of the Week Honors

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Tim_Duncan_SpursNEW YORK – The Spurs’ 17-game winning streak brought an added bonus Monday. Tim Duncan was named Player of the Week — this coming despite Kevin Durant averaging 32.5 points on .597 shooting.

It was the 22nd time Duncan has won the award.

The Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the San Antonio Spurs’ Duncan were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, March 24, through Sunday, March 30.

Vucevic led the Magic to a 2-1 week, which included wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats, behind averages of 22.7 points (sixth in the conference) and a league-leading 14.3 rebounds. He posted a point-rebound double-double in all three contests, including a 24-point, 23-rebound effort on March 28, during Orlando’s 110-105 win over Charlotte.

Duncan led the Spurs to the NBA’s lone unbeaten record on the week at 4-0. He averaged 20.0 points (tied-eighth in the conference) on .625 shooting from the field (eighth in the conference), 8.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals. On March 26, Duncan’s versatility was on display as he posted 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals during a 108-103 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Here is a recap of the week for Vucevic and Duncan:

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

March 25 vs. Portland: Collected 22 points and 10 rebounds during a 95-85 win over the Trail Blazers.
March 28 vs. Charlotte: Scored 24 points and pulled down 23 rebounds in a 110-105 win over the Bobcats.
March 30 @ Toronto: Posted 22 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a 98-93 loss to the Raptors.

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
March 26 vs. Denver: Notched 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals in a 108-103 win over the Nuggets.
March 28 @ Denver: Posted 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks during a 133-102 win as the Spurs swept a home-and-home with the Nuggets.
March 29 vs. New Orleans: Scored 12 points and added eight rebounds, six assists and four blocks during a 96-80 win over the Pelicans.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters, Miami’s LeBron James, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Washington’s John Wall.

Bernucca: Spurs Aren’t Streaking, They’re Gliding

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lebron-wade1There have been some fair comparisons drawn between the current 17-game winning streak of the San Antonio Spurs and the remarkable 27-game run put together a year ago by the Miami Heat.

Both teams expect to compete for the NBA championship. Both teams found their rhythm at the most opportune time of the season. Both teams stormed to the league’s best record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

There are obvious differences as well. For one, San Antonio still needs 10 straight wins – a run reached by only three other teams this season – to merely match Miami’s streak. Even if they win out, the Spurs will still come up one short of the Heat and have to resume the chase next season.

But here’s the biggest difference. The Heat were somewhat consumed by their streak. The Spurs are not consumed by theirs.

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