Well, here we are. Win or Go Home.
JJT on Dirk’s mission …
"Do you want to go to the next level where we haven't been? If you want to go there, there is a lot of criticism that goes with that territory," Johnson said. "We could have stayed where we were which wasn't bad because we were winning 50 or 60 games a year.
"But if you get to that level where you enter the [NBA] Finals, it takes you to a whole new stratosphere where you get exposed to more criticism whether you're a player or coach. That's what everybody said they wanted, so that's what we went after. We know the rewards are great, but so is the criticism."
Just ask Nowitzki, though it's not like he's never shown the ability to dominate in the playoffs.
There was his 50-point performance last year against Phoenix a couple of days after a hideous 11-point game in the Western Conference finals. And you can't forget his 37-point, 15-rebound performance in Game 7 against San Antonio in the second round of the playoffs.
But Mavericks collapse in the NBA Finals last year, when they blew a 2-0 lead and choked away a title against Miami has shaped how he's viewed nationally and locally as it should.
All you had to do is listen to sports talk radio in Dallas-Fort Worth and nationally the last couple of days to hear Nowitzki ripped for his lackluster performance and defeatist attitude in the first four games of the series.
Nowitzki doesn't seem to realize the Mavericks can't win, if he doesn't dominate. He can't be a role player because when he plays like a star the Mavericks are virtually unbeatable.
Dallas is 19-1 this season, when Nowitzki scores at least 30 points, a figure he hit in Game 5 for the first time in the playoffs.
Johnson implored Nowitzki to be more aggressive in Game 5 because it gets him to the free throw line, slowing down the Warriors' fastbreak. In the second quarter, Nowitzki drove to the basket five consecutive times, scoring three baskets and drawing a foul as the Mavericks raced to a 21-point second-quarter lead.
The aggressive approach resulted in Nowitzki shooting 15 free throws, the second time in the series he's shot at least 10 free throws. Dallas has won each of those games.
It's no coincidence.
Dallas is 23-4 this season, when Nowitzki shoots at least 10 free throws.
See, those are the reasons the nine-year veteran must assert himself and be the best player on the court. Nowitzki must impose his will in Game 6 just like Baron Davis has done in every Golden State win.
There is no other way.
It's his responsibility. Like it or not. His legacy depends on it.
Warriors say all the right things before Game 6 …
Instead of sleeping Tuesday night, Richardson said he watched Game 5 over and over to see what the Warriors did wrong at the end. For starters, they couldn't stop Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had 12 points in the final 3:07. They couldn't stop guard Devin Harris, who had 11 points in the fourth quarter, from getting into the lane.
Then they weren't aggressive enough on offense. Five of their last eight shots -- all misses -- were three-pointers, though as Richardson noted, "That's our style. We live by the three and die by it." And with a franchise playoff-record 16 threes made, it was obviously the longball that brought the Warriors back from a 21-point deficit in the first half.
After his team staved off elimination, Dallas coach Avery Johnson took a page from the Warriors' Don Nelson and said that Golden State now faced "10,000 pounds" of pressure to close out the series at home.
The Warriors aren't buying it.
"We're not angry," Jackson said. "We don't feel any pressure or anything. We're up 3-2 and we're going home. We're still in a great position. ... We know it's going to be difficult (tonight), but we feel like we can do it.
In baseball news, the Rangers celebrated a rain-out last night.
Ron Washington says he is about changing his approach …couldn’t hurt…
Ron Washington says he has not been himself, and that's about to change.
Jon Daniels says Washington is still making an adjustment from being a coach to a manager, and that's to be expected.
And both agree there is no crisis on the horizon, other than the very early one that has the Rangers with a 10-16 record. And even that is one that can be turned around with 126 games remaining in the season.
Washington said Wednesday that he had been asked last week by someone on the team, whom he did not name, to be a little less vocal in instructing players on the field while the game was in progress.
Washington is a proactive manager, constantly hollering out situations and strategy.
When Washington took a vocal step back Friday in Toronto, the Rangers responded with consecutive victories. Since then, however, they have struggled to four losses.
The issue came to light when Washington was asked if he would try to help break the Rangers out of their hitting slump by giving more signs, such as instructing players more often when to take or swing at pitches. Before Wednesday's games, the Rangers were hitting .230, which was 29th out of the 30 major league teams.
"I was [giving signs] earlier in the year," Washington said, "and I sort of got the sense that I had them up there thinking too much. So when we were up in Toronto, I just backed off and let them be what they are.
"But I'm about to go back to sticking up a finger in situations where I think we should be taking [pitches] or situations where we're behind in the game and we're making first-pitch and second-pitch outs.
"I got away from taking the game over in that respect, but until we start developing that discipline, I'm going to have to start taking that part of the game over again."
Washington said the Rangers are swinging at too many first pitches and are not exercising enough patience. Texas batters swing at the first pitch thrown to them 26.6 percent of the time, which ranks fourth in the American League.
Tampa Bay leads with 34.5 percent.
"I've been telling them they have to have more discipline," Washington said.
Washington said he was open-minded when approached.
"I didn't get upset by it because I'm introducing situational hitting, and I'm introducing working the pitcher," he said.
"And I sort of felt that maybe by them focusing so much, they weren't doing what they do. I backed off the first day in Toronto and we broke out."
Newberg tries to understand what is going on …
I've received a handful of emails the past few days, ranging from politely interested to outraged, asking that I explain what's wrong with this baseball team and whether it's going to get better.
How am I supposed to explain an offense hitting .230/.299/.392, a year after it hit .278/.338/.446?
Mark Teixeira with six RBI, after a month? Michael Young hitting .207/.228/.333? Hank Blalock with one home run, and a strikeout for every four official at-bats? Brad Wilkerson with a strikeout for every three, including strikeouts in nine of his first 10 games played?
Gerald Laird going 7 for his last 20 -- to lift his average to .169?
A team ERA (5.53) that is the second-highest in baseball -- more than half a run worse than the third-highest -- and only one starting pitcher (Robinson Tejeda) whose ERA is that *good*? A young, battle-tested rotation acquisition off of whom hitters are teeing off at a .356/.433/.522 rate?
Vicente Padilla in search of his first 2007 win, sitting at 20 walks and 14 strikeouts despite coming into the season with a career 2-to-1 ratio of whiffs to walks?
It doesn't help to see what Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez are doing in San Diego. Or Padres AAA right fielder Vincent Sinisi, for that matter, who could figure in if Terrmel Sledge doesn't break out of his slide. And over in Chicago, John Danks and Nick Masset are more than holding their own.
Neither would have made the Rangers' Opening Day staff.
But that's getting away from the primary point. Collectively, the 30 players who have suited up for the Rangers this year aren't this bad.
They're just not this bad.
Meanwhile, Detroit wins Game 4 in San Jose on the ice, And Guerin takes a puck in the face …
The Sharks have avoided injury through the playoffs, but that streak might come to an end depending how right wing Bill Guerin recovers from taking a puck to the face in overtime Wednesday night.
Guerin was in front of the net when a drive off the stick of Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff ramped up and struck the forward just below his nose on the right side of his face. Bloodied and shaken, Guerin left the ice 8:17 into overtime and did not return.
"He's in getting stitched up, that's all I know," coach Ron Wilson said afterward.
Guerin, a late-season acquisition from St. Louis to add depth to San Jose's attack, is still looking for his first goal of the postseason.
The Champions League bids farewell to Chelsea on Tuesday and Manchester United on Wednesday…Too Bad.
So that leaves a rematch of the unforgettable 2005 Final: Liverpool v. A.C. Milan …
Ferguson's side were handed a lesson in pass and move, support and shoot: Milan's football was chess with knives, and United were cut to pieces by Gattuso and company. Milan's No 8 will have more of a fight on his hands in the final when he encounters a Liverpool side led by another No 8, Steven Gerrard, who loathes Gattuso from their meeting in Istanbul two years ago.
Liverpool versus AC Milan, Gerrard versus Gattuso, in the European Cup final: ITV are showing repeats again.
With plots Inspector Morse would struggle to solve only in the bizarre world of modern football could the Champions' Cup be contested by a side who qualified after finishing third in their league, and another who failed to qualify because of a corruption scandal but appealed and were reinstated. Simple.
Yet Athens promises much on May 23, not least a party between the tens of thousands of merry envoys from Anfield and San Siro. As well as smiling policemen, relieved at avoiding a showdown between bitter rivals from the East Lancs Road, Athens will brim with sub-plots, many harking back to Istanbul.
Can Milan hold on to a lead? Will Gattuso risk smirking in the tunnel at half-time as Gerrard charges past? Will Dida match the penalty-saving brio of his Anfield counterpart? Will the wise heads of Milan live with the strong hearts of Liverpool. Will the European Cup spend the night at the end of Gerrard's hotel bed again. Will Peter Crouch against Paolo Maldini be the ultimate in long in the leg versus long in the tooth? So many questions.
Keyshawn’s unintentional comedy (I assume you know the whole story)
Since it is Thursday, Here is Jim as Dwight.