Thursday, April 03, 2008

Make That 1-10!

OK, OK…it was just Golden State, you say. They were tired, you say. They should have been routed, you say.

And all that could be true.

But for one night, wasn’t that fun? Wasn’t that the way it is supposed to look?

Dirk led the way (or was that William Wallace?), Josh and Terry played as well as they have, and some guy named Eddie Jones appeared.

And for just a moment, your mind started to race. You started to wonder where this could head if this was what they were. Yes, you dared to dream again about the Dallas Mavericks.

It may have very well been one game that wasn’t that special, but I appreciated the Mavericks giving us a smile for the first time in a long time. 1-10 against teams with winning records is still bad, but it is sure better than 0-11, right?

Now, keep it going.

Dirk Nowitzki is back.

And maybe the Mavericks are, too.

The real Mavericks, they hope. The ones who on Wednesday treated Golden State like a team that was playing its fourth playoff-worthy opponent in five nights, which the Warriors were.

With Nowitzki pulling off a nicely orchestrated smokescreen – he had painted a bleak picture earlier in the day about his health – the forward returned from his high left ankle sprain to ignite the Mavericks to a 111-86 victory.

The win showed that the Mavericks remain heart-healthy after a disappointing March, during which that muscle and other body parts were questioned by just about everybody.

"If it would have been November, there's no way I would have been out there," Nowitzki said. "But we've got to get this playoff spot. We've been fighting all season long, so I tried to be out there and helped the team as much as I could. If we'd lost, it wouldn't have looked too good."

In essence, the Mavericks pulled off a rope-a-dope. Or a rope-a-Dirk. After the team's morning shootaround, it looked iffy whether Nowitzki would play. Before the game, Warriors coach Don Nelson said the reports he had gotten were that Nowitzki was out.

Then, the MVP started and played 27 minutes, mostly in short bursts. He finished with 18 points, and his presence seemed to rejuvenate everybody.

"It was big," Devean George said. "No, it was huge."

And it even impressed the Warriors, who are locked in a battle with the Mavericks and Denver for the final two Western Conference playoff spots.

"The big difference was Nowitzki," Nelson said. "It was quite an inspiration to their ballclub. They just went to a different level than we've seen this year. If they can keep that level going, they're as good as anybody in the West."

A boisterous crowd at American Airlines Center watched the Mavericks solidify their spot as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. They won the season series, 3-1, over the Warriors, giving them the tiebreaker should the teams end the season with identical records.

They are two games ahead of the ninth-place Warriors, with Denver in between.
And, of course, the Mavericks finally won a game against a winning team, the first time that's happened since the Jason Kidd trade after 10 losses.

David Moore is there

If you believe Golden State emasculated the Mavericks in the playoffs last season, if you believe the Warriors exposed Nowitzki as an MVP fraud, what do you believe now?

This game was for those clueless souls who allege Nowitzki isn't all that tough. He played with a high ankle sprain and sore knee that would have kept lesser athletes on the bench in street clothes for at least another week.

Nowitzki wasn't at his best Wednesday. He labored to get up and down the court at times and had no lift to his jump shot. But he was able to pivot off his left leg on several occasions and get to the basket. He finished with 18 points and five rebounds in a performance that was more about sheer will and guile than ability.
Nowitzki did more on one leg than Golden State's Stephen Jackson did on two.

Jackson, who punked Nowitzki in the playoffs, had two points and was 1-of-11 from the field as Howard shut him down.

The Mavericks carried a 20-point lead into the final period and actually extended that lead. That's one way for the team to force critics to stop focusing on its struggles in the stretch.

The Mavericks made the closing moments of this game irrelevant, because Howard was once again dominant offensively. Jason Terry, who has seemed lost at times this season, found his way. Jason Kidd showed why the Mavericks mortgaged their future to obtain him, and Johnson left center Erick Dampier on the court rather than remove him to try to go small with the Warriors.

The result: The Mavericks pounded the Warriors into submission on the boards, 56-38.
"It was a must win," Nowitzki said. "If we had gone down tonight, things did not look good at all."

It wasn't just a must win. It was a game the Mavericks should have won.
Golden State was playing its fourth game in five nights. The Warriors had lost to San Antonio by 24 points one night earlier.

The story in the Bay Area this morning

No one had to tell the Warriors or the Mavericks what was at stake Wednesday night. If ever there was a regular-season game that screamed playoffs at every turn, this was it.

"If we don't win this game," Andris Biedrins said before tip-off, "then we are in big trouble."

Consider the Warriors in a world of hurt.

Golden State's biggest game of the season ended in colossal disappointment, a 111-86 spanking at American Airlines Center that was every bit as lopsided as the final score read.

The Warriors were simply no match for the previously-stumbling Mavs, who rode Dirk Nowitzki's gutsy return and huge nights by Josh Howard and Jason Terry to the virtual brink of the playoffs.

With the Warriors losing the season series 3-1, they also lost every tiebreaker scenario with the Mavs and Nuggets should any or all finish the season with the same record.

Although the Warriors are officially one game behind the Nuggets and two behind the Mavs for the final playoff spots, Golden State is effectively two back and three back of the pack, respectively, with seven games left to play.

"Ain't nothing we can do, we got our butts kicked tonight," Baron Davis said. "At this point, we got to be able to shake off tough losses like this and get to our next game. We have to get our spark back, and that's going to start with Memphis."
It had better, or else the Warriors' make-or-break road trip will double as the end of their postseason push.

Golden State dropped consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 2 and Jan. 4, and its offense continues to stumble at the worst time possible. After shooting 38 percent against the Spurs, the Warriors followed up with another 38-percent outing against the Mavs.

Rangers lose the rubber match in Seattle

One theme that ran through the Texas Rangers' spring training from start to finish was the need to get off to a different kind of start than in 2007.

After one series, though, things look eerily similar.

The Rangers dropped the series finale in Seattle, 4-1, on Wednesday night. And while the Rangers didn't get swept like they did last year at Los Angeles, that was about the only difference.

A year ago, on the way to a 23-42 start, the Rangers failed to field the ball and failed to deliver with runners in scoring position. That was exactly the case during their cold three-day stay in Seattle.

Fielding problems were the case Monday and Tuesday, when four errors really stuck out. Wednesday, it was situational hitting that came to the forefront.

The Rangers were hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, and just 3-for-21 during the series. Only once Wednesday did they even advance a runner.


The inability to score runs rendered Jason Jennings' Rangers debut meaningless. He lasted only five innings. The third trip through the Mariners' lineup did him in.

Jennings had retired 10 in a row when No. 9 hitter Yuniesky Betancourt slapped a two-out single in the fifth. Ichiro Suzuki, who had seen nine pitches while grounding out in his first two at-bats, followed with a single between short and third.

Jose Lopez, who had seen 12 total pitches while popping out in each of his first two at-bats, fell behind 0-and-2, but Jennings missed with three straight pitches. Lopez crushed the full-count pitch for a three-run homer to left. Jennings also gave up a bases-empty homer to Jose Vidro in the second.

Jennings followed the homer with a walk, but he did get Richie Sexson to pop up to end the inning. Still, the 32-pitch inning put him at 91 for the game and ended his night.

It ended the Rangers' streak of quality starts at two. The club hasn't had three consecutive quality starts to begin the season since 1996, when it went on to win the AL West.

It also extended the Rangers' streak to 194 games without a complete-game performance by a pitcher. It ties the major league record set by Tampa Bay from April 14, 2001 through May 19, 2002. The Rangers could break the record for pitching futility Friday when Kason Gabbard faces Los Angeles. The last Ranger to have a complete game was Kevin Millwood on August 29, 2006 vs. Baltimore.

Revo is on board with David Murphy …and then, when we least expected it, he gave all the credit to RUDY!!! Amazing.

It's perfectly OK that David Murphy plays in Josh Hamilton's shadow in the Texas Rangers' outfield, as long as he stays in Hamilton's shadow.


In other words, manager Ron Washington needs to keep doing exactly what he's done for every game so far this season: writing Murphy's name in the Rangers' lineup, as he did for the third time Wednesday night at Safeco Field.

It's called playing the hot hand, and let's face it, Murphy has been nothing but hot since he arrived in Texas last Aug. 10.

Hot the final two months of last year.

Hot this spring.

Hot to kick off the 2008 season.

Seems to me there might be a trend developing here.

Hey, I'm as surprised about this development as you are. The long, tall Texan (Klein High School in Spring) might have once been a highly touted first-round draft pick out of Baylor in 2003, but when the Rangers sent Eric Gagné to Boston for three players at the trade deadline last July 31, Murphy seemed like little more than a throw-in to complete the deal.

The headliners in the trade were left-hander Kason Gabbard, who was expected to immediately join the Rangers' rotation, and Class A teenager Engel Beltre, a reportedly immense raw talent with five-tool potential.

Murphy? Might be a serviceable fourth outfielder was the report.


But then something strange happened on Murphy's path to oblivion on the bench. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo got hold of that "ugly swing," as he characterized it, and suddenly all that potential the Red Sox had seen in the now 26-year-old outfielder began to blossom.

In 103 at-bats with the Rangers, mostly in September, Murphy hit .340 with a dozen doubles and a couple of home runs. He picked up right where he left off when he arrived in Surprise, Ariz., this spring, hitting .359. Not many people noticed, though, because three teammates -- Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young -- each batted better than .400.

Don Banks on Wade Phillips

Speaking of bull's-eye, nobody starts the 2008 season with a bigger one on his back than Phillips, the Cowboys second-year coach. Dallas went 13-3 in the regular season last year, but got upset at home in the divisional round by the Giants, a team it had already beaten twice earlier. For all the Super Bowl buzz surrounding the Cowboys last season, the ugly fact remains that Dallas hasn't won a playoff game since 1996, a postseason drought longer than that of the Arizona Cardinals, who last won in the playoffs in 1998.

Phillips drew a lot of heat late last season and after the playoff loss, and deservedly so. He seemed a bit tone deaf when it came to his team and its less-than-rousing head of momentum heading into the playoffs, and he seemed to make excuses for its underachievement afterward, trying to cling to the ridiculous notion that earning a first-round bye equated to winning their first playoff game.

And after listening to him Wednesday, I'm still not sure Phillips gets it. He was back making the same basic points that won him some derision after the loss to the Giants. Asked about the Cowboys having an NFL-high 13 Pro Bowl players last season, but no playoff wins to show for it, Phillips again sounded more defensive than disappointed about last season.

"Well, we did go to the division round of the playoffs,'' Phillips pointed out. "And the team we lost to, I think did well in the playoffs. I think our players, a lot of them played up to their potential, which ended up with them making the Pro Bowl. And our team was good overall, certainly during the regular season.

"But you've got to be there [in the playoffs]. You've got to be there, and if you're there every year, you have a chance. Hopefully we can continue this process. You know, we lost one game by four points [against the Giants] and we were down there at the end of the game a couple times, to a team that certainly won it all. I'm proud of last year's team, but we think we can do better this year.''

They'd better. I've said this before, but if the Cowboys don't win at least one playoff game, and maybe two, Phillips can just about count on having yet another NFL address in 2009. Dallas owner Jerry Jones has been supportive this offseason, but he wouldn't have any choice but to lower the boom on Phillips and begin the Jason Garrett head coaching era if this season brings another one-and-done playoff showing.

Liverpool is severely outplayed, but get the away goal…and now sit pretty heading back to Anfield next week against Arsenal…

Everyone knew where this game was bound from the instant the draw was made, but the sides took a winding, scenic route to deadlock that nobody had expected. Frequently, there was more madness than method and this was not the type of stalemate anticipated in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final. While Liverpool, with their away goal, have the edge, Arsenal would surely have won had the substitute Nicklas Bendtner, in an offside position, not been in the way of a net-bound effort from Cesc Fábregas.

Arsenal are exasperated, too, that, with the score at 1-1, the Dutch referee, Pieter Vink, failed to see the tug at the left arm of Alexander Hleb by Dirk Kuyt that should have brought a penalty in the 66th minute. On broader reflection, Arsène Wenger should be happy about spells, after the interval, when his side had an expansiveness unseen since they held that five-point lead in the Premier League not so long ago.

Nonetheless, Arsenal probably need to reach the sort of peak at Anfield that they attained to beat Milan 2-0 at San Siro in the previous round. The overall situation will gladden Rafael Benítez at a time when this competition offers the sole hope, as it probably does for Arsenal, of plucking triumph from a muddled season.

And Chelsea loses in Turkey …but they should be fine..

My new column on Dallas on Zubov

Texas Rangers HD Schedule ….

Check this out:

Dallas animal rescue groups are giving a party for Bill Craig Friday night, a Georgia cyclist making an 800-mile marathon to raise money for the spay-neuter-adoption cause.

"Dallas-to-Dallas Ride for Wet Noses" is on the road April 5th—12th.

It's 7 days, 800 miles, 1 man and a bike.

The Big Send-Off is Friday night, 5:30-7:30 pm

3506 Cedar Springs, Dallas, TX

Cedar Springs at Sale Street, off Turtle Creek Blvd.

Donations at the door.

More information: or 214-350-7387.

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Jay said...

Who's got their DIRK SHIRT ON?!?!

dim499 said...

aahh, for once we get to hear the other team's excuses for losing.

Go Fenerbahce!

Tony said...

“Wasn’t that the way it is supposed to look?”
It was so much fun to watch.

Fake Sturm said...

Props to the Big German. Isnt this the same high ankle sprain injury that kept T.O. out for three weeks. Yet Dirk is only out for ten days. He has got to be one of the toughest athletes around. The team looked amped with his return last night and hopefully this can boost them into the playoffs. Like Popovich said, there wont be any upsets in the West this year. The 8 will be as good as the 1 seed.

Andy D. said...

I hate to be realistic here, but...

any team can play on emotion for one night. Sorry MFFL's.

We still have a flawed team, an overcoacher who will be moving back to LA here in the next 2 months, and a one and done in the playoffs.

There is an offseason full of changes that I am looking forward to.

A Silence Production said...

mavs don't even think about pulling on my heart strings.

I'm with andy d.

BACM said...

My Dirk shirt hasn't seen the light of day since the Finals. It's going to take a lot more to make me a believer again.

MK said...

win a tough game on the road and then, Mavs, you can start feeling good again.

Fake Sturm said...

Okay thanks guys...please let me know when I can start cheering on the Mavs again. Eff all of you. I will proudly sport my Mavs gear until it is time to go fishing.

BACM said...

Fake Sturm: Nobody is disagreeing with you that Dirk is greatness. However, I'm not putting on my kneepads until we see consistency of greatness from the whole team.