Friday, November 09, 2007

When a Win Feels Wrong

I know it is Friday, and that means we shall always lead with a nice Cowboys thought or two, and preview that thing….But, I can’t do it this morning.

This morning, I lead with a Mavericks road victory in a tough place to play where they had to make some big shots late to grab a win.

So, why am I not pleased?

I guess because I expected so much more. Like last April, I kept expecting my boys to stand up and impose their will on an inferior force from Golden State. And like last April, I cannot admit that they are not capable of doing it – there is no way that the Mavericks are not the better team. But, like last April, my boys appear to be unable to impose anything on Baron and company.

Reggie Miller said last night that, “Styles make Fights”. Maybe that is what we have here. There is just something in the matchup that will always give the Mavs fits. But, to see docile Dirk wander around on offense at the 3 point line, and to see Devin Harris and Josh Howard unable to stay out of unnecessary fouls as they try to match the intensity of their opponents is just more of the same. I don’t mind looking helpless against the Spurs sometimes. They are good. The Warriors are not. They are Baron Davis and a bunch of dudes.

If you still have the game on your Tivo, you have to rewind to the 4th Quarter. P1 Patrick caught this:

at 9:04 in the 4th Qtr after Dirk fouls Baron Davis, you see Davis shouting something that sums up the MAVS, "They're soft. They don't want it."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

I saw it. Patrick is right. Baron seems right, too. I know the Mavs won, but what message did they send to anyone who watched last night? That they still seem soft. And they might not want it. Ouch.

Big Shots down the stretch get the Mavs a win

All the talk of payback and revenge didn’t mean a thing.

Sure, Dirk Nowitzki knocked Golden State’s Baron Davis to the floor with a hard screen early in the game. Devin Harris stood and scowled at Matt Barnes after the Warriors swingman laid him out on a drive.

But it didn’t matter how physical the Mavericks were or the fact they hung on for a pulsating 120-115 victory Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Nothing could erase the memory of what the Warriors did to the Mavericks in the playoffs.

“I don’t think it ever leaves you, just like any success you have never leaves you,’’ Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.

“When you have successes, you know you can do it. When you have some failures, you try to learn from it and come back stronger mentally and physically.

“If you can do that, that’s the test of whether you really learned something.’’

One thing the Mavericks learned from their playoff loss is that they need a more athletic presence in the middle against Golden State and other teams that like to go small and fast. Brandon Bass flashed promise that he could be that player.

Bass came off the bench to muscle his way to 10 points and 12 rebounds, the first double-double of his NBA career. He was on the court at the end of the game and came up with a huge offensive rebound in traffic when Nowitzki missed a 3-pointer.

“That’s why we got him,’’ Johnson said. “We need double-doubles out of our big guys. We need big men who are able to play on the perimeter.’’

Bass blocked two shots, and Johnson argued he should have gotten credit for two others. He played 32 minutes.

“A game like this makes you really feel good,’’ Bass said. “It makes you feel like you are helping and contributing. These type of games really boost my confidence.’’

The Warriors were a confident bunch entering the game. It was justified. The Mavericks hadn’t won in this arena in 22 months. Their last victory came on Jan. 25, 2006.

Golden State’s Andris Biedrins said, “everybody feels good about themselves playing against Dallas because of what we did last year.’’

Al Harrington anticipated the Mavericks would come into the game with revenge on their minds and a playoff mind-set. When asked if the Warriors owned the Mavericks,
Harrington said, “I guess. But I don’t want to want to give them any bulletin-board

“We won a lot of games versus them. I wouldn’t say we own anybody, but that’s a great matchup for us.’’

Ray Ratto

Thursday's game mattered, if for no better reason than to make Johnson, Nowitzki and the rest of the Mavs face the hard question, "So, are you going to do something about this, or what?"

And the answer was a resounding, "We're doing the best we can. This is just really hard."

Unlike Game 81, which they essentially threw for tactical reasons that exploded in their faces, and Games 83 through 88, which made the Warriors not only relevant but downright attractive, the Mavs brought their A-game to Oakland on Thursday night - and still did not extract their victory easily. They started more quickly and with more purpose, but that wasn't the same as what they really needed to do - punish Baron Davis for his spring effrontery and make the Warriors pay for not having Jackson.

In fact, Davis was everything he was in April and May - intrepid, even fearless despite the absence of Jackson. He attacked the basket, bumped bodies with whichever Mav or Mavs moved into his view, and enforced his presence as the best players are supposed to do. He owned the room, when he wasn't renting it to Kelenna Azubuike.
And though the rest of the Warriors rebounded only intermittently and shot free throws even less well (as much their MO as Davis), the telltale development was that the two teams pushed and pushed back all night long. They have developed a genuine, enduring, mutual dislike based on the fateful 12 Days in the Spring, and the two years before it. The Mavericks weren't shell-shocked or compliant, as they were in April and May, but neither were they dominant, or even in control.

Beyond the court, there wasn't the same playoff atmosphere, but there was a decided tension in the building, and not merely because the crowd has taken to reflexively booing Nowitzki whenever he and the ball become conjoined. This is the new hot ticket in the Bay Area, the best rivalry until such time as the Raiders decide to rejoin the AFC West.

Meanwhile, a team that won’t be bullied, the Dallas Cowboys go to New York. I don’t have a great feel for this game since I think both teams have matchups that give the opponent fits. How do the Giants stop Owens and Witten? They don’t. How do the Cowboys contain Plaxico? They don’t. How do the Giants deal with Ware? How do the Cowboys handle Osi?

This should be good. Since I took the Eagles last week, does it matter who I pick?

Cowboys 24, Giants 20.

Witten and Shockey = BFF

Witten, 25, from Knoxville, Tenn., and Shockey, 27, from Ada, Okla., are friends off the field. They talk regularly on the phone. If they chat about their relative importance to their offenses, Witten probably has more to talk about. As Tony Romo's top target (by one catch over Terrell Owens), Witten is having a Pro Bowl season, with 45 receptions for 617 yards and five TDs. He shredded the Giants for six catches, 116 yards and a touchdown in Dallas' 45-35 Week 1 win.

"My hat goes off to him," Shockey said. Good one.

Shockey wasn't a wallflower in that game, with five catches for 41 yards, but he hasn't been the kind of impact receiver Witten has been this season. Shockey has caught 31 passes for 358 yards and one touchdown; his desire to have more balls thrown his way is well known, but he wouldn't allow the oh-so- clever media to draw him into a "woe is me" comparison with Witten Thursday.

"I was used [that way] at one time in my career," Shockey said. "I'm sure other people were jealous. That's just the way this league goes. You start making a lot of plays like that ... Obviously, there's only a couple of people that can do it year in and year out, like Tony Gonzalez and ntonio Gates. I'm not jealous at all. There's no reason to be jealous."

There is reason to be concerned about Witten, Owens, Romo and the Cowboys' offense if you're the Giants' defense. Big Blue's defenders chalk up their Week 1 stinker to Michael Strahan's late arrival, Osi Umenyiora's early-game injury and a learning curve for coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense that hadn't kicked in yet.

OK, that's all valid. But the Cowboys haven't stopped scoring since that game, with an average of 33.1 points. Dallas' only loss was to the Patriots, which is like saying your only failed relationship in the past year was with Jessica Simpson. As Romo can attest, that's not all that bad.

"They're a good team," Shockey said. "I think everyone in this locker room is excited about playing the Cowboys. They've been playing very well and everybody knows they're obviously at the top of our division."

A win by the Cowboys would practically hand them the NFC East crown as the Giants would be two games back after losing the season series. A Giants win would make the last seven games an exciting sprint for the title.

"You don't want to make it seem like this is an end-all, be-all game, but this is a very important game for us," Strahan said. "This, right now, is for first place in the division."

Eli needs a win to be a big boy

It's amazing how quickly Romo's lengthening eclipse of Manning has happened -- not just the fluff off the field, but the substance Romo has shown on the field, too.

Nobody is giving up on Manning, of course. Not even close. But four years into his NFL career, people are still drumming their fingers on the table and waiting, always waiting, for Eli to really bust loose, go nuts, terrorize opponents for a month or two and make the next big progression, the first huge breakthrough in his career.

Outplaying Romo on Sunday, grabbing this game with both hands and lifting the 6-2 Giants into a first-place tie with Dallas, certainly would qualify. Winning a couple of playoff games in a row would come next.

The Giants need Manning to be a difference in games such as this. That's why they traded a ransom to get him after San Diego drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004.

Romo has started only 19 NFL games since that October Monday Night game he entered last year in the second half against the Giants in place of Drew Bledsoe. But that's all Romo has needed to become a star. A win Sunday would give Dallas a two-game lead in the NFC East and a sweep of the Giants with seven games to go. Right now Romo is no worse than the second-best quarterback in the NFC after his hero, Brett Favre, while Manning hovers in this netherworld of good but not great.

With Manning, there always still seems to be a withholding of judgment going on. He hasn't done anything wrong, per se. He's improved every season. For the third straight year Manning has presided over a 6-2 start, too. But knowing how the Giants' previous two seasons crashed, people don't trust this year's record. Not yet, anyway. And Sunday figures to be the sort of back-and-forth game that Romo or Manning could decide with a play or two.

Manning already has had some benchmark games in his four-year career -- his first trip back to rancorous San Diego early in his second season proved he has guts; the late comebacks he's .orchestrated showed he can be clutch; the Manning Bowl that his Super Bowl-bound brother Peyton barely won last season for Indy underlined his competitiveness.

But Romo already has one Pro Bowl berth versus none for Eli. Manning knows he will always lose charisma comparisons to Romo, who smiles and scrambles his way throughout games, boyishly wears a baseball cap backward on the sideline and plays with more outward joy than any Dallas quarterback since Dandy Don Meredith. Fine.

But it was still a little buzz-killing Wednesday to hear Manning use the "m" word to describe himself -- as in "I just try to manage the game" -- while Romo spoke of "flinging it" and seeing if the Giants are good enough to stop him. At some point, a No. 1 overall pick should produce big-time magic, too.

Manning swears he doesn't pay attention to his rank anywhere, not on the gossip pages ("I think you all are reading those" ) or against the other quarterback on the field.

"I don't know what his stats are, I don't know what my stats are," Manning said of Romo.

But everyone else is keeping score. So far the ledger says this: Manning needs Sunday's game more than Romo does. Time for Eli to take his next Giant step.

Breer examines Eli

Thing was, coming from the Northeast, the selection of the Giants' No. 10 -- not to be confused with the Colts' No. 18 -- at the top of the '04 draft was already being talked about as a Big Blue blunder. More often than not Eli's first name was followed by a word that was not "Manning," but one that probably shouldn't be used on the blog. Plenty of people thought New York made a huge mistake not holding on to Philip Rivers (although with the season Rivers is having, that may be revised now.)

The truth? Well, let's take a look.

In the season opener, Manning went 28-of-41 (68.3 percent) for 312 yards, four
touchdowns and a pick, compiling a 113.1 QB rating. Since? You might want to avert your eyes. Here are the facts:

-- Only once in seven game has he completely more than 60 percent of his passes, and that was against the sorry Falcons.

-- Just twice in those seven games has he thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions, those games being against the Jets and 49ers.

-- In one game since the opener, Manning's thrown for better than 300 yards, against the Falcons.

-- On four occasions since Week 1, Manning's failed to complete more than 55 percent of his passes.

Now, I'll balance this out by saying that Manning has a pretty good completion percentage of 58.2 for the year, his 1,584 yards are fine, and his 13-9 TD-INT ratio is one plenty of quarterbacks wouldn't mind have having. Plus, there's the most important part, and that's that he's been at the controls of a 6-2 team, and the Giants aren't exactly winning despite him. Also, his 23-15 record since 2005 is plenty good.

And any brother comparison must include a couple of other numbers. In his first 47 starts as a pro, Eli's 26-21 and has thrown 53 interceptions. In Peyton's first 47 starts, he was 25-22 with 57 picks.

But staying in the here and now, the Giants offense has, in many ways, taken on the inconsistent personality of its quarterback. Three times, the unit has scored more than 30 points. Three times, it has scored 16 of fewer.

The conclusion? Eli can be very, very good. He can also be unsightly. And while even the best quarterbacks have bumps in the road, the very elite are the ones whose performance doesn't vary wildly from week-to-week. So to call Eli anything but average at this point would probably be a stretch.

Suge Knight loves the Trojans

Whitlock blasts the handling of Andy Reid …he has a point, but I am still in shock that Jason Whitlock would write a column about race relations…

Only the uninformed, butt-kissing media members or delusional Eagles fans believe any of this transpired without Andy and Tammy Reid knowing. The judge didn't buy it. That's why he was critical. I credit the judge for talking to the Reids the same way he would D'Angelo Barksdale's mama, Brianna (the final season of The Wire starts in January).

If this was a ghetto tale, police would look at Tammy Reid the same as Brianna Barksdale, as a silent co-conspirator or possible user. Garrett Reid would have to squeal on his suppliers or participate in a sting. He certainly wouldn't be viewed as salvageable. He'd be seen as a tool to make a bigger case.

Garrett Reid's admittance that he's a drug dealer and the fact that large quantities of drugs and weapons were found at the Reid home would make their house subject to seizure by the state. The Reids would be targets, not victims.

But let me tell you what's most troubling about all of this: Andy Reid's cowardice and the fact that we're letting him get away with it.

We, the media, particularly black members of the media, are always crying when athletes won't speak out on important issues. We want 22-year-old LeBron James to have a position on Darfur, a place he's probably never been. We scolded Michael Jordan for not having a social conscience. We're mad Tiger Woods won't lend his name to the plight of six black cowards who stomped and kicked one white boy in Louisiana.

But white sports figures aren't required to have a social conscience. They can satisfy themselves chasing supermodels and filming cute commercials.

America's morally bankrupt war on drugs, a cause that has killed and destroyed more lives than Vietnam and Iraq combined, has finally put Andy Reid's kids on the front lines (incarceration), and Andy Reid doesn't have a damn meaningful thing to say about it.

That's unacceptable. It's cowardly.

Andy Reid knows my pain, and he's too worried about a freaking football game to verbalize it. He could make Middle America and the power structure understand the helplessness and the pain you feel when people you love get caught up in America's political ploy called a "war on drugs."

Yeah, Andy has the money and clout to make sure his kids get treated with a little bit of compassion. He needs to spend time talking with his boys and let them inform him how the poor get run over by the system and institutionalized. He needs to talk with Garrett Reid about how kids, especially kids with fathers who spend too much time away from their families, get swept up in pop culture's glorification of drug dealers and criminals.

"I liked being the rich kid in that area and having my own high-status life," Garrett Reid told a probation officer, according to reporters covering his court proceedings. "I could go anywhere in the 'hood. They all knew who I was. I enjoyed it. I liked being a drug dealer ... These kids were scared of me. I was even selling to their parents."

It's shameful that Andy Reid is still coaching the Eagles. With his acquired wealth and impeccable coaching reputation, he could step away from football for two or three years, focus on his family and walk right back into a top coaching job.
Hmm. Maybe tales from the neighborhood are just as dysfunctional as tales from the 'hood.

Top 10 Baseball Free Agents …what a lousy year if Silva and Lohse make the list!

1. Alex Rodriguez. It's a perfect storm for A-Rod, with the one imperfection being the absence of the Yankees in what promises to be a record contract. Here's what should help him: A career year. A weak market. Several big-market teams in need of a third baseman. The Angels look like they may lead the pack, with the Dodgers, Mets and Red Sox in pursuit. The greats usually get 30 percent more than you'd guess, so I'm moving it up from my late-season prediction of $256 million for eight years.
What's the deal? 10 years, $320 million.

2. Torii Hunter. Superb season was timed perfectly for one of baseball's best people. The Twins tried $45 million for three years. He may double that.
What's the deal? 6 years, $90 million.

3. Andruw Jones. Four hundred putouts dispute the notion that he's lost a half step.
But his season with the stick didn't become him. Cost himself tens of million with his awful performance at the plate (26 homers -- his lowest total since 1999 -- and a career-low .222 batting average).
What's the deal? 5 years, $80 million.

4. Aaron Rowand. Great chemistry guy plays with reckless abandon, maybe almost too reckless sometimes. Coming off a career year (.309, 27, 89).
What's the deal? 4 years, $56 million.

5. Jorge Posada. Has the Yankees where he wants them. They're offering three years but have to wonder if maybe, just maybe, he'd jump to the Mets.
What's the deal? 4 years, $52 million (same as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon).

6. Mike Lowell. Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who's in the third base-market after A-Rod opted out, opined, "I personally believe the player's preference is to stay in Boston first and foremost.'' Lowell and the Red Sox still may be at odds over the years, though, with Boston offering three and Lowell looking for four.
What's the deal? 4 years, $52 million.

7. Francisco Cordero. Big year in Brew City (44 saves, 86 K's in 63 1/3 innings). Nice acquisition for Doug Melvin, but it'll be tough to keep him.
What's the deal? 4 years, $44 million.

8. Mariano Rivera. No response to the Yankees' three-year, $39 million offer. He'll make 'em sweat it out, but eventually he should come back.
What's the deal? 3 years, $42 million.

9. Carlos Silva. May be the best free-agent starter out there. Came on at the end of last season (7-4 in the second half), and should cash in. Word is, the Twins tried $20 million for three years. With roughly 20 teams interested, he'll do much better than that.
What's the deal? 4 years, $40 million.

10. Kyle Lohse. Always willing to take the ball. It's what happens afterward that can be troublesome (9-12, 4.62 ERA with the Reds and Phillies last year).
What's the deal? 3 years, $24 million.

Stars thud again …they are so average…so average….soooooo average….

The Pacific Division has gotten topsy-turvy for the Stars, and that might be one of the key reasons they can't seem to keep any forward momentum going.

Coming off wins at Anaheim and San Jose – traditional Pacific powers – Dallas lost, 5-2, to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday at Arena. It was the Stars' second consecutive loss to Phoenix and the second time in as many games the Stars have yielded five goals to the Coyotes.

"They just outworked us; it's as simple as that," said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas.
"They've got a hard-working team, they have a lot of young players. They bring a lot of energy – you can't expect to win in this league if you don't work every night."

Both teams were tired, coming off road wins and having traveled the night before. But Phoenix had young legs and pushed hard through a tough first period, while the Stars scrambled. Then, when Niklas Hagman took a roughing penalty in the offensive end of the ice, it opened the door for the Phoenix power play.

Lindros Retires

It was a relaxed and smiling Eric Lindros who officially hung them up yesterday, confessing to just one regret.

"I might have practised stickhandling with my head up a little bit more," cracked Lindros, whose career-limiting concussions – including the jarring hit by New Jersey's Scott Stevens in the 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs – came when he was looking down at the ice.

Lindros spent much of his career looking like a deer caught in the headlights when facing a wall of cameras, likely a byproduct of getting roasted in the media after he spurned the Quebec Nordiques when they drafted him No.1 in '91.

But yesterday at the London Hunt and Country Club, the 34-year-old Lindros gave every appearance of a man very content with his decision.

"I felt strong about this in my heart and mind all summer long," he said, before adding later: "I played with the best, I played against the best. It was a blast."
Lindros saved one of his biggest assists for last, announcing that he's donating $5 million in support of the London Health Sciences Foundation, which includes the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic.

Eric Lindros vs. Scott Stevens

The Office is closed


Joe said...

You know what? The Mavs are not soft, its Dirk. Would you call Stackhouse soft? Avery? Howard? Devin? Bass (what a stud, good find)? Absolutely not. It all falls on Dirk.

A few years ago, I sent you an email about how the Mavs, during Nelsons watch, always allow spare players and teams career or season highs in some statistical category.
This trend has continued with Avery's squad and I can only blame one holdover from the Nelson era. Dirk. It always seems like Dirk's man is going off or the defensive rotation is always late because someone had to try and cover Dirks mistakes. Who is this spare ex-Kentucky dude that the Mavs made look like the second coming of Mark Aguirre? Ridiculous.

Also, the NBA continues to drive me away with its horrendous officiating. The calls in that game were LOL bad. Why are the Warriors allow to hack, trip and push but the Mavs can't even hand check?

Screw it. Its an early season game, it means nothing. I really think this team can gell, despite Dirk, and I'd like to see this Bass kid get the ball a little more on the block.

I think Mark may want to see if the Lakers can get Kobe for Dirk straight up. They are in complete disarray here in LA.


Tony said...

It's sad to me that a win is not good enough anymore for the Mavericks fans. I love the Mavs so much and every victory. This is the start of our coach's 3rd freaking year. Can we shift calling games "statement games" until after 20 games and everyone who is injured gets back, and rotations are set?

Jay said...

Dude, this GSW team is the Mav's kryptonite be we have no answer to their small ball. I think the buck stops with Avery. We have to be able to put guys out there who can slow down BD and punish them on the other end. Bass has to be part of that. Mavs can play big and tough against other teams with bigger players but this small ball team is too quick. They can throw the ball around and get wide open shots and we have zero answer for Baron Davis. Could Eddie Jones take care of Davis? Putting Devin is not the answer. BD just laughs and pushes him aside.

I think we saw last night also that the Mavs still have a chance but the team that wins these matchups is the team that hits their shots. Last night Mavs hit their shots a little more than GSW. Last year in the playoffs GSW shot out of their minds and Dallas shot poorly and got run out of there.

But the Mavs should be punishing the GSW with defense and out-rebound them so that it's not a run-gun 3 point contest. The Mavs shouldn't get drawn into that kind of contest. Who wants the Mavs to play GSW in a best of 7 right now? Not me. What does this mean? Does this have implications for other matchups? I really don't think it does bc other teams don't play small ball like GSW, even the Suns.

All it means is that the Mavs better pray they don't play GSW in the playoffs again and if they do they better a) find a way to put together a defensive plan to stop BD or b) shoot lights out and hope GSW doesn't.

And teams aren't moving towards small ball. There is 1 team that causes the Mavs more fits than anybody and that's the stinking warriors. The Mavs can't match up perfectly against every team and they match up well against the teams that matter. Unless we could get Tim Duncan to clog the lane or Chaunce Billups to slow down BD, but obv that's impossible and remember kids GSW are NOT the Yankees. It's not like the road to the Finals has to lead through GS. It might? But that's if GSW can even get to the playoffs and the Mavs are unlucky enough to face them again.

Jared said...

The Mavs won a game when the opponent shot out of their minds. Golden State can't sustain that kind of offense over a long haul.

And don't say they did in last year's playoffs, because they didn't. Go look at the shooting numbers. The Warriors played their own average basketball in last year's playoffs, it was the Mavs that played horrible.

Bottom line, the Mavs played the way they can tonight, and beat the Warriors on a night when they played over their heads. What's not to like about that?

cracker1743 said...

There sure are a lot of words here for a team that will fold (again) in the playoffs.

I'd rather talk about Lohse. Or Greggo. Has anyone seen him?

mrowlou said...

Why is there talk of firing Tip? Its not his fault that the stars are signing up for AARP cards soon. ARMSTRONG MUST GO!!!

dim499 said...

I'm so disappointed that Bob is buying into that "statement game" stuff that Kenny threw out yesterday.

When they beat the Spurs a week from now by 20 noone will remember this game and Bob will come on on Friday and say things like "Spurs, be very afraid". Just the way the world works.

Jake said...

A win is a win is a win. Go Mavs.

Please don't throw money at Hunter.

Writer's strike = the suck.


cracker1743 said...

No. City of Houston = The Suck.

Jay said...

Not sure what you're talking about Jared. I don't recall what the final totals were but I remember at least once at half time GS shooting like 70%. They were hitting ridiculous shots and hit a 3 on what seems like every buzzer. The Mavs shot poorly but GSW was shooting lights out.

The problem with the Mavs is that they get dragged into a shootout with GS and that;s how you lose with a team like GS. We wanted to see the Mavs overpower them.

Lance said...

Today is another example Bob of why you shouldn't fear the Saints any at all. They suck and they aren't going anywhere this year.

MrSimic said...

Off by just one Cowboy touchdown, Bob; good job.