Game Day…I am so very pleased. But, I am also quite nervous. I felt the Mavericks were better than the Spurs and they proved that they were. I felt the Mavericks were better than the Suns, and they proved that they were.
The Heat? I am not sure at all. I am not sure that the Mavericks are better than the Heat. It is likely because I cannot get my arms around a 7 game series chess match between these two teams, and all of the plot twists that this no doubt will bring.
There is no doubt that my biggest fear is foul trouble. Josh Howard guarding Dwayne Wade; Dampier and Diop trying to contain Shaquille. Can they stay on the court? Or will we see huge roles for Keith Van Horn and Marquis Daniels? I think you know my feelings on that happening.
I think this team can match up with anyone. But, I am certainly concerned about their long time nemesis, Shaq. The symmetry of this whole post season is great, though. Finally beat the Spurs. Avenge the Suns for last year. And now, exorcise the Shaq demons. What a perfect run if it can be completed.
I am taking the Mavericks (shock, eh?) in 7. I am expecting this thing to be 1-1 after 2, and 2-2 after 4. I am expecting an ice cream headache from now until about June 22. And I am expecting it to be awesome.
Could you imagine the buzz kill if this goes the wrong way? Let’s not even consider it.
Let the Chess Match begin! …
"When they go to a small-ball lineup you have to think about what you're doing defensively and who you have on the court," Riley said. "But I don't want to overreact to that. [Mavericks coach Avery Johnson] is prone to put almost any lineup out there and he's been very successful at it, so he's got 10 guys who can play multiple positions."
Wade, who is averaging 26.2 points in the postseason, only scored 14 in the series clincher over the Pistons, his first sub 20-point effort in the playoffs. But his pregame preparation consisted of a visit to the hospital for intravenous fluids with another dose at halftime.
Heat starting point guard Jason Williams picked up the scoring slack with 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting.
"I don't think it creates too many problems because we're not a one-on-one defensive team," Williams said of guarding Terry or Harris. "We'll just keep guys in the paint when they run a pick-and-roll, whoever it is."
Harris, the second-year 6-foot-3 guard out of Wisconsin, emerged in the Mavericks' second-round series victory over the defending champion Spurs when he was able to neutralize San Antonio guard Tony Parker.
"He's the closest thing to Tony Parker as far as quickness that we're going to see," Riley said. "Jason will show that kind of quickness every now and then, but Harris, contrary to what people think, can really shoot the ball. We cannot leave him open."
The Mavericks are preparing for a healthy Wade.
"More than anything he is so explosive," Johnson said. "He can get to the basket it seems whenever he wants to.
"Now he has an outside game, in-between game, and his penetration game going. That kind of makes me lose sleep at night."
Udonis prepares for Dirk …
The Heat's 6-foot-8 forward Udonis Haslem is used to guarding taller opponents, but they rarely possess the long-range shooting prowess of Mavericks 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki.
Haslem, who normally patrols the paint, must chase Nowitzki beyond the 3-point line where the sweet-stroking German has made a respectable 17 of 43, while averaging 28.4 points this postseason.
"I'm not trying to shut him down, just make him work hard," Haslem said. "It's tough because at 7-0 he can still shoot over me, but I'll try to take away his air space."
The danger of having Haslem guard Nowitzki on the perimeter is that the former Gator will be out of position for defensive rebounds, his forte.
"Maybe so, but we still got the Big Fella [Shaquille O'Neal] down there, and Dwyane Wade's a good rebounder for a guard, and James Posey will get his," said Haslem, who has averaged 7.8 rebounds in the postseason.
While the Heat has slightly outrebounded the Bulls, Nets and Pistons in the first three rounds, the Mavericks have dominated the glass in all 17 postseason games, an NBA record, by an average of 42.9 to 36.3 rebounds per game.
Art Garcia’s fine feature on Dirk …
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs
The numbers: 28.4 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.1 APG
The ride: First round -- defeated Grizzlies 4-0; West semis -- defeated Spurs 4-3; West Finals -- defeated Suns 4-2
DIRK'S PLAYOFF RUN
The franchise records Dirk Nowitzki has set in the Mavs' march to the NBA Finals:
Points in a game
50 vs. Phoenix
46 Previous mark
Rebounds in a game
21 vs. San Antonio
20 Previous mark
3-point field goals made in a four-game series
8 vs. Memphis
6 Previous mark
3-point field goals attempted in a four-game series
19 vs. Memphis
9 Previous mark
Free-throws made in a seven-game series
73 vs. San Antonio
55 Previous mark
Free-throws attempted in a seven-game series
80 vs. San Antonio
65 Previous mark
Points in a six-game series
168 vs. Phoenix
163 Previous mark
Free throws made in a six-game series
50 vs. Phoenix
37 Previous mark
Free throws attempted in a six-game series
56 vs. Phoenix
46 Previous mark
Defensive rebounds in a six-game series
60 vs. Phoenix
54 Previous mark
I thought this was a particularly interesting read A story on why the Mavs are better without Nash from Slate …
If Dallas isn't winning because it plays better defense, then what's the team's secret? The Mavericks are winning because they've unshackled Dirk Nowitzki. The conventional wisdom says that great players in general, and Nash in particular, make their teammates better. But in the case of the Mavericks, Nash made Nowitzki—the team's best player and his best friend—distinctly worse.
Playing with Nash turned Nowitzki into a half-star, half-carnival freak. Nash's penetrate-and-dish moves allowed the 7-foot tall, David Hasselhoff-loving German to take advantage of his uncanny accuracy from the 3-point line. It turns out, though, that having him spot up for 3-pointers isn't the best use of Nowitzki's abilities. Nash's great asset is his unselfishness and ability to find the open man. What makes Nowitzki special is that he doesn't need to be open in order to score. Nobody can guard him.
There's no use sticking a tall guy on Dirk—opposing big men can't move their feet fast enough to keep up. Teams abandoned that strategy years ago in favor of deploying shorter perimeter stoppers against him. This throws defensive schemes into chaos by creating mismatches elsewhere on the floor. Not to mention that, as of this year, the little guys can't slow down Dirk, either. Nowitzki can shoot over the heads of much-shorter defenders or, even better, post them up around the free-throw line. Low-post scorers such as Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal are often hampered by their poor free-throw shooting. Nowitzki's free-throw prowess—he shoots 90 percent from the line—means he's all but impossible to stop. Despite the new Mavs' much slower pace, Dirk's scoring average has gone up five points since Nash left. Playing closer to the basket has also made him a better rebounder. A strong case can be made that Nowitzki, not the MVP Nash, has now emerged as the best player in the NBA.
Nowitzki has gotten better by parting ways with the league's most unselfish player.
And Dallas as a whole is proving that you can generate an effective offense by "playing the wrong way." The Mavericks run lots of isolation plays and don't usually bother passing to the open man. Nash's Suns ended 19.7 percent of their possessions with assists, the highest rate in the league. Nowitzki's Mavericks assisted teammates just 14.8 percent of the time. Only the horrifyingly bad Knicks had a lower rate. Meanwhile, the superselfish Mavs had the league's second-most efficient offense in the regular season. In the playoffs, they're third behind Phoenix and San Antonio, two teams they've eliminated. This has allowed them to get all the way to the Finals by being merely not-bad on defense.
Mavs go to South Park …
Want to know what gives me sports goose bumps? Play the video below. It is U2’s ABC World Cup promo. How do you combine the greatness of U2 and the greatness of the World Cup? It is awesometown…
Here is another, featuring The Edge…
And this one about the Ivory Coast …
In huge World Cup news, Shrek is cleared to play …
Sven-Goran Eriksson today insisted Wayne Rooney is "injury free" and now just needs to obtain match fitness before he plays in the World Cup.
The England coach declared the final decision on when the Manchester United striker can play in Germany will be "Rooney's and mine" after the player's club stated that independent medical opinion pointed to him not being ready to play until after the group stage.
Rooney joined in training with the rest of the squad in Baden-Baden this morning after undergoing a scan on his broken metatarsal in Manchester yesterday. United said last night that the 20-year-old "will require very careful assessment in order to address his suitability" to play.
Meanwhile, Edmonton got spanked last night …
The Edmonton Oilers had a problem in the goal crease at the RBC Center last night, but it had little to do with the absence of Dwayne Roloson or the presence of Jussi Markkanen.
It had a lot more to do with rookie goaltender Cam Ward, who, for the second straight game in this Stanley Cup final, turned in a sensational performance, this time with 25 saves as the Carolina Hurricanes blew away the Oilers 5-0 to take a 2-0 series lead.
With Roloson out for the balance of the final with a sprained right knee and Markkanen taking his place, the 22-year-old from Sherwood Park flat-out beat the masked man at the other end of the rink again to get it done.
It wouldn't have mattered who it was.
"He's been playing great," Ethan Moreau said of Ward. "But it's similar to the second round against San Jose when Vesa Toskala was playing very well. He came into our building and we got to him.
Rangers get a pretty dramatic win in Kansas City …well, as dramatic as it can get in Kansas City anyway…
Rod Barajas, searching the last few days for a consistent swing with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, hit a two-strike splitter off closer Ambiorix Burgos to left-center to tie the score. And Gary Matthews Jr. hit a 3-2 fastball off Elmer Dessens down the left-field line for a two-run double.
"When the game is on the line, everybody wants to step up and get that clutch hit," Barajas said. "I've been working and trying to get myself back into my comfort zone, and for this to happen right now is definitely a boost."
The dramatic, two-strike, two-out hits were against the Royals' bullpen. The Rangers couldn't touch Kansas City starter Bobby Keppel. The rookie left – amid boos toward manager Buddy Bell from the 11,246 fans in attendance – after allowing a leadoff hit in the ninth.
Replay Radio …Get it! It is awesome, and has helped many P1’s listen to the Ticket via their Ipod…
Corby and Shaq …Go to 8:30…
It is never a goal until it is a goal …
Maybe Dirk and Diop did have the same parents …