Thursday, April 17, 2008

Playoff Time!

I am very pleased the Mavericks got a win last night in the 82nd game, bagged the 51st win of the year, and thus lined up the Hornets for 7 games starting Saturday night in New Orleans.

However, it did feel weird to have my guy Dirk admit in bold print below that he desperately wanted to avoid Kobe. I mean, I agree with him, but bro, don’t admit it in public. It kinda sounds “soft”.

Dirk with some fairly non-William Wallace like quotes in this Mark Stein report

Ask yourself: Who finished the regular season with a fancier, happier flourish than Dallas? With a 111-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets, these 51-win Mavs were unquestionably Wednesday night's biggest winners, no matter what happens next.

Don't forget that it was less than a month ago that Dallas had legitimate fears it wouldn't even reach this postseason, after Dirk Nowitzki's left leg did some stomach-turning twisting and folding in a March 23 home loss to San Antonio. But now? The Mavs overturned an 11-point deficit in Wednesday's third quarter and escaped with the W they had to have to secure a first-round, best-of-seven rematch with the Hornets starting Saturday ... and then struggled to conceal the glee that comes from dodging Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in Round 1.

"I think that's definitely a matchup we wanted to avoid," Nowitzki conceded after Dallas survived its star forward's worst individual performance since the All-Star break, overcoming Nowitzki's 4-for-16 misfiring thanks largely to the long-awaited 100th triple-double of Jason Kidd's career.

Dirk continued: "This was definitely a win we wanted to get ... and don't see the Lakers."

That's not to say Nowitzki or any other Mav was openly clamoring for a series-long dose of Chris Paul. They're not crazy. They know Paul is likely to gradually adjust to the aggressive, two-man trapping in the backcourt that Dallas used to unexpectedly rattle New Orleans' MVP candidate and spark its third-quarter comeback. Nor did the Mavs miss how Paul shrugged off a hard foul from Erick Dampier early in the third -- and the resulting tweak to Paul's left ankle -- and played on as if nothing happened, slowed only by foul trouble.

Yet facing New Orleans is clearly preferable to any of the other possibilities that have been looming for Dallas once it become apparent that last season's No. 1 seed in the West was going to be a much lower seed this time.

Actually ...

Given the Hornets' relative lack of playoff experience, starting with the playoff rookie at point guard, Dallas somehow emerged from the tightest conference race of all-time with the best first-round draw of any Texas team.

The Rockets? They wound up as the No. 5 seed after an expected pounding of the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 82, but that only set up a rematch with the same Utah team that won a Game 7 in Houston last May and just finished posting a league-leading 37-4 record at home. The Jazz apparently haven't forgotten what happened in that series, either, judging by Utah's 29-point surrender at San Antonio in Wednesday's finale, ensuring that Utah would be matched up with the Yao Ming-less Rockets. If Houston couldn't beat Utah with Yao ...

The Spurs? Don't ask. They faced the bleakest range of possibilities on the season's 170th day, knowing that a loss to the Jazz likely meant a first-round series against Utah without home-court advantage ... and that a win likely meant a first-round showdown with Phoenix after the Spurs and Suns staged that second-round epic in 2007 that everyone regards as the real '07 Finals.

It would be folly to suggest that the Suns -- even though their two most convincing performances as a team since the Shaquille O'Neal trade both came against Team Duncan -- are in any way giddy about having to deal with the defending champs right away. The Spurs remain the only team in this wilder-than-ever West possessing been-there, done-that, seen-it-all championship cred. So slaying San Antonio this early is a ginormous assignment.

The Spurs, though, know they're vulnerable. Especially so after Manu Ginobili's recent groin trouble reminded us that the Tim Duncan-Ginobili-Tony Parker troika has been dealing with health stuff non-stop since December. The Spurs likewise haven't forgotten that Phoenix was right there with them back when the Suns didn't believe in their ability to beat San Antonio four times in seven games nearly as much as they do now with Shaq to counter TD.

After Kidd’s triple double last night, here is the all-time list:

Most Career Triple Doubles

Oscar Robertson 181
Magic Johnson 138
Jason Kidd 100
Wilt Chamberlain 78
Larry Bird 59

Here is the Western Conference Schedule in Round 1:

L.A. Lakers vs. Denver

Game 1 - Sun April 20 Denver at L.A. Lakers 12:00PM 3:00PM ABC/R
Game 2 - Wed April 23 Denver at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 - Sat April 26 L.A. Lakers at Denver 3:30PM 5:30PM TNT
Game 4 - Mon April 28 L.A. Lakers at Denver 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Wed April 30 Denver at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 2 L.A. Lakers at Denver TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 4 Denver at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TBD

New Orleans vs. Dallas

Game 1 - Sat April 19 Dallas at New Orleans 6:00PM 7:00PM ESPN
Game 2 - Tue April 22 Dallas at New Orleans 6:00PM 7:00PM TNT
Game 3 - Fri April 25 New Orleans at Dallas 7:00PM 8:00PM ESPN
Game 4 - Sun April 27 New Orleans at Dallas 8:30PM 9:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 29 Dallas at New Orleans TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu May 1 New Orleans at Dallas TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 3 Dallas at New Orleans TBD TBD TNT

San Antonio vs. Phoenix

Game 1 - Sat April 19 Phoenix at San Antonio 2:00PM 3:00PM ABC/R
Game 2 - Tue April 22 Phoenix at San Antonio 8:30PM 9:30PM TNT
Game 3 - Fri April 25 San Antonio at Phoenix 7:30PM 10:30PM ESPN
Game 4 - Sun April 27 San Antonio at Phoenix 12:30PM 3:30PM ABC/R
Game 5 * Tue April 29 Phoenix at San Antonio TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu May 1 San Antonio at Phoenix TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 3 Phoenix at San Antonio TBD TBD TNT

Utah vs. Houston

Game 1 - Sat April 19 Utah at Houston 8:30PM 9:30PM ESPN
Game 2 - Mon April 21 Utah at Houston 8:30PM 9:30PM TNT
Game 3 - Thu April 24 Houston at Utah 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 4 - Sat April 26 Houston at Utah 8:30PM 10:30PM ESPN
Game 5 * Tue April 29 Utah at Houston TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 2 Houston at Utah TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 4 Utah at Houston TBD TBD TBD

Here is a very good looking Hornets Blog for the series …including a feature that Asks if Chris Paul can defend very well …which I was wondering, too, last night…

On to the nervous topic of the day: The Stars mandatory Game 4 tonight

The Dallas Stars weren't happy with their mistake-riddled Game 3 on Tuesday. They had a little meeting about it Wednesday, just a chance to talk about getting those details cleaned up for Game 4.

It's doubtful a motto came out of their pre-practice chat; but if there was a mantra, it should be this: Forget Game 3, play like Game 1 and/or 2.

"That's what you've got to have," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "All we can do is learn from our mistakes, watch some video, look at a few things and work on a few things in practice. Those are the little things that sometimes make a big difference."

The Stars' mistakes were visible Tuesday. It was also a distinct departure from the first two games of this Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Now the Stars will look to buckle down and regain a two-game lead before the series returns to Anaheim.

Steve Ott, who talked about the many miscues, including his own, said the Stars simply had a terrible 15 minutes in the first period.

"There were some really uncharacteristic plays. Even during the regular season you didn't see that many, and we seemed to have them all in that first period," Ott said. "Once one happens, then another happens and it kind of snowballs from there. We just have to regain the momentum and pressure and put it back on them."

How do the Stars do that? Playing like they did in games 1 and 2 wouldn't hurt. The Stars made an error here or there, but they weren't nearly as costly as Game 3's miscues -- or the mistakes were cleaned up before the Ducks could take advantage.
Playing as they did during the first five minutes of Game 3 wouldn't be so bad. The Stars had great chances and were dictating the pace, but the errors began to surface. The Stars might have also been caught up in trying to be too pretty.

"You try to do too much at times," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We didn't execute the simple plays. Maybe we were looking for better plays than we should've instead of the smart ones."

Ducks get a boost for tonight

After being sidelined for six weeks, Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry feels he is ready to make his return to the ice.

The 22-year-old All-Star hopes to play on Thursday in Game Four of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the fifth-seeded Dallas Stars. The Stars lead the best-of-seven series two games to one.

"I feel pretty good," Perry said on Wednesday. "Practice was on the lighter side today, but yesterday we did a lot of skating at the end of practice, and it's gotten better since last week, that's for sure."

The Ducks' leading goal scorer with 29 tallies this season, Perry hasn't played since he suffered a lacerated tendon above his right knee after being struck by the skate blade of Colorado goaltender Jose Theodore on March 6.

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle has taken a cautious approach in regard to Perry.
"If we decide to play Corey Perry, we will ease him in," Carlyle said. "We're putting him in a real tough situation if we decide to use him, to expect offense and put him with Ryan Getzlaf and whoever we decide to use on the other side. We think it's dangerous to put a player in his first game back in that situation.

"There will be a lot of intensity tomorrow, the game will be at a high pace and there will be a lot of physical play. Sometimes it takes a while for a player to get his feet underneath him."

MB3 tries to get the deal that the Shark wants

Marion Barber made it to the Pro Bowl last season without starting a regular-season game. Now, he's looking for a big payday.

The Cowboys have held preliminary talks with the running back's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, according to multiple sources, and are offering a financial package in the $30
million range.

Barber wants a package between $40 million and $60 million.

In February, the Cowboys placed the $2.562 million tender on Barber, who is a restricted free agent. If another team wants to sign Barber, it would have to give up first- and third-round picks if the Cowboys choose not to match an offer.

Rosenhaus, who did not return a phone call seeking comment, has a good working relationship with the Cowboys, and it is unlikely that a deal won't get done.

But Rosenhaus' request that Barber receive a contract similar to some of the top running backs in the game caught the Cowboys somewhat by surprise, the sources said.

Barber's asking price is comparable to deals given to Kansas City running back Larry Johnson (five years, $43.2 million), Washington's Clinton Portis (eight years, $50.5 million) and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (six years, $60 million).

The Cowboys, according to the sources, believe the deal that free agent running back Michael Turner signed with Atlanta in March (six years, $34.5 million with $15 million in guarantees) is close to what Barber is worth.

Rangers cannot hit with runners in scoring position, but a wild pitch helped!

On Wednesday, the Rangers lost a three-run eighth-inning lead, made another critical error and left the whole populace of the Yukon Territories stranded on the bases. And yet, they won by playing Toronto to a stalemate until it was the Blue Jays who collapsed in the 14th inning of a 7-5 win at the echo chamber formerly known as SkyDome. The win snapped a five-game losing streak.

The go-ahead run scored because the Rangers survived long enough for Toronto to make a mistake. A.J. Burnett, who started against the Rangers on Sunday, threw a two-out wild pitch under the legs of catcher Gregg Zaun, and Frank Catalanotto scampered home. One batter earlier, Michael Young grounded to short with the infield drawn in, and Gerald Laird was caught in a rundown.

"It was tough and it was hard, but we needed a win like this," said Laird, who was present when Washington made his brief pep talk following Tuesday's 7-4 loss to Los Angeles. "A win like this, where everybody played and everybody did something, does a lot more for us than to just come out and blow somebody out."

The Rangers took a 5-2 lead to the eighth, but after three dominant outings, Joaquin Benoit was wild. He got the first out, then loaded the bases with two walks and a single. After he walked in a run, Washington went to just-recalled Wes Littleton.

Littleton got a ground ball from the Joe Inglett, the first batter he faced, but it was in the hole between first and second. First baseman Ben Broussard, who did not start, fielded it and threw wide of Young at second. The tying run scored.

But the Rangers did not give Toronto the lead. They had more chances to win and wasted plenty of those, too, leaving a 19 runners stranded. They became the first team in nearly seven years to win a road game while leaving 19 or more runners on base. The New York Yankees did it in Toronto in a 17-inning game on April 19, 2001.

Watch this: And don’t question whether laughing at this makes you kinda gay.

Poor Jamison


MK said...

"That was a bulls-eye!"-Awesome

Note to Dirk: CP3 doesn't respond well to slights (see the draft). Talking about wanting to avoid Kobe might be all the incentive he needs to torch you.

Biggest question going in for the Mavs: can this team win on the road in what is sure to be an electric environment in nola? Regular season road record of 17-24 is a bad sign. Some half ass research says no team since 2000 has won the title after having a losing road record in the regular season.

Tony said...


Are we really surprised that someone doesn't want to line up against the greatest basketball player on the planet, who likes to go for 50 on us, and plays for the best team in the western conference? Seriously, that comes to us as a surprise. Let's break it down further.
CP or Kobe = Even (For fairness sake, although, I think most people would rather play CP)
West or Odom = West
Chandler or Gasol = Chandler.

I wish I could thank Dirk personally for having a brain. You earn your sack for what you do on the court, not what you say to the press.

Lance said...

And guess what? If the Mavs do make it past the Hornets (which isn't exactly all that likely), then they'll have Kobe and the Lakers waiting right there for them in round two.

dim499 said...

No, they will both make it through 2 rounds to meet up. The Lakers get the winner of Utah - Houston in round 2.