Day 1 at the Compound, where Dirk love flows….
Big Man brings it home in Phoenix …
Who knows if Dirk Nowitzki’s sprained left ankle can withstand this type of punishment in a grueling playoff series, but at least the Dallas Mavericks understand that whomever they might face, even with Nowitzki hobbling, they can take anyone down to the wire.
And finally, after Sunday’s come-from-behind, 105-98 victory over the Suns, buoyed by a 27-9 pasting in the final quarter, the Mavs also know they can pull one of these out.
The wounded Nowitzki, having put up a game-high 32 points and 12 rebounds, was sprawled on a training table after the game, his sprained left ankle and both knees wrapped in ice packs. It’s become routine.
The difference was Nowitzki’s giant grin and a locker room that instead of being awash in deflated silence after another hard-fought loss, was crackling with the sounds of laughter and singing.
Nowitzki’s highlight-reel play with 32.2 seconds left sealed it. Retrieving his own blocked shot by Shaquille O’Neal, he drove left, lost his footing and nearly stumbled to the floor. Somehow he regained enough balance to shoot awkwardly off his left leg, the one with the high ankle sprain, and drained it for a six-point cushion.
“I stumbled about 18 times,” Nowitzki said.
It put the capper on a wild final 12 minutes, a finish the Mavs have long said was overdue.
“It felt great to finally get over the hump,” said Nowitzki, who logged more than 38 minutes, including every second of the fourth quarter. “Everyone in the locker room was pretty hyped up that we had finally pulled this one out, and hopefully this can build some momentum.
“We still have some tough games until the playoffs. If we can get some momentum here in these last games, then we could be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.”
The question of if the playoffs are in the offing are fading. At 48-29, the Mavs seem to have the seventh seed cornered, three games back of sixth-place Phoenix with five games to go.
“We’ve been building on so many losses, this might have helped us turn the corner and build on wins against quality teams,” said Kidd, who scored eight points with seven assists and hit a key driving layup with 2:51 remaining. His biggest impact came defending Steve Nash, shutting his counterpart down in the fourth quarter while amassing four steals and four blocks, tying his career high for the latter.
“The big thing for us,” Kidd said, “we’re concentrating on us and nobody else.”
Sunday’s victory, the first on the road against a playoff-quality team since Feb. 4 at Orlando, matched the importance of Wednesday’s win over Golden State in terms of the playoff chase and surpassed it in displays of team character and grit.
View from Phoenix …
The Suns entered the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Dallas needing only to score 20 points to become the NBA's top offense.
Instead, Phoenix blew a 13-point lead by looking like the worst offense around. The Suns went scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the fourth and Steve Nash missed his final seven shots in a 105-98 loss to Dallas at US Airways Center.
The team that had averaged 114.8 points to win 11 of its previous 14 games and had efficiently scored 89 points in Sunday's first three quarters disappeared.
After a Shaquille O'Neal turnaround opened the fourth quarter for a 91-78 lead, the Suns spent the next 7:51 with the sort of offensive helplessness that made Miami look potent. Phoenix missed 12 shots as the Mavericks' 16-0 run sent them to a win, making them 2-11 against winning teams since adding Jason Kidd.
The Suns still cinched a playoff spot with Golden State's and Denver's losses on Sunday but fell to sixth place in the West, three games ahead of Dallas, which now is firmly in the seventh spot. A Pacific Division title appears unlikely with Phoenix trailing the Lakers by two games with five games to play and Los Angeles holding the tiebreaker.
"Everything was going well for three quarters and their backs were really against the wall, so psychologically we were at two different places, and they played like it," Nash said. "It meant more to them, and they showed it."
Phoenix's seven-game home win streak ended with a 27-9 fourth quarter in which the Suns scored two more than the club's worst fourth quarter ever. In that 7:51, the Suns showed unfortunate balance, with six players missing and misfires coming from all over the floor. This came after shooting 50 percent with seven turnovers in the first three quarters.
"It's kind of like when you have a sugar high and crash," Suns forward Grant Hill said.
The Suns still had time to rally but did not score off two late Dallas turnovers. Then saw Dirk Nowitzki cap a 32-point game by scoring twice in the final minute after Phoenix had cut the lead to four.
"The momentum changed," said Stoudemire, who scored 31 points. "We couldn't warm back into it. They kept their guys in that got hot, and it was hard to slow them down."The difference in aggression was shown with the Suns not drawing a foul until the fourth quarter's seventh minute. By then, Dallas was in the penalty and scored 11 fourth-quarter points on free throws.
"The good thing is with Phoenix, you can be up 14 or down 14 and you're always in the game," Nowitzki said. "They play a fast-paced style and we play a fast-paced style so you're never really out of the game."
This Email: GBE Gabriel at 12:13 pm on Sunday
According to conventional wisdom in basketball a superstar always makes the players around them better.
Dirk has never done this and never will.
A superstar takes the team on their back and causes them to win in a clutch situation, dirk has never done this.
dirk cannot handle the ball very well in traffic and he is clumsy in traffic as well.
Dirk is the Mavericks and the Mavericks are Dirk everyone knows this. The Mavericks will never win a title as long as Dirk is on this team.
Dirk is a real good player but he is not good enough to win a title as long as he is the "go to guy".
Dirk does not finish strong in clutch situations and he never has.
The Mavericks need to trade Dirk while he still has good value and start over with a whole new team identity because the dirk led Mavericks have gone as far as they are going to go.
Dirk is thought of as soft around the league and that is why the Mavericks have had the reputation as being a soft team for so long because their franchise player is soft.
Just because dirk came back after 10 days from an injury that you compared to the TO injury does not make Dirk some kind of bad ass. For one thing the injury to Owens might have been a more severe injury as we do not know but when you say that means Dirk is not soft you are mistaken.
Dirk is soft and that means the mavericks are soft.
The Mavericks cannot win a title as long as Dirk is on this team is my prediction to you about these mavericks and if they do I will write you back as say I was wrong.
The Mavericks will lose in the first round of the playoffs, IF they get to the playoffs.
Your sports brain went way over the top when you tried to compare Owens with Dirk. That was a real bad argument to try to prove your point of how "tough" a guy Dirk really is.
Now I understand why I never listen to your show. I heard you make the remark about Dirk and TO on the Sunday ticket show.You truly are BAD radio.
Ask Dwayne Wade how tough Dirk is?
The Stars fight with San Jose yesterday, and now prepare for the most daunting task of Anaheim in the first round…
The Dallas Stars will open their first-round series with the Ducks at 9 p.m. CDT in Anaheim:
Ducks vs. Stars (All times Central)
Game 1: 9 p.m. Thursday at Anaheim
Game 2: 9 p.m. Saturday at Anaheim
Game 3: 7:30 p.m. Tues. April 15 at Dallas
Game 4: 7 p.m. Thurs. April 17 at Dallas
Game 5: 9:30 p.m. Fri. April 18 at Anaheim
Game 6: Time TBD Sun. April 20 at Dallas
Game 7: Time TBD Tue. April 22 at Anaheim
Some of yesterday’s fisticuffs:
Ott – Shelley
Michalek – Crombeen
Murray – Crombeen
Rangers are not depressing us yet! …bravo on 3-3 road trip..
•The starting rotation: Vicente Padilla gave the Rangers their fifth quality start in six games this season. The rotation, which pitched the fewest innings in the AL last year, is averaging almost 6 2/3 innings per outing for the young season. The rotation returns for the home opener with a 2.30 ERA and it has its first complete game since Aug. 29, 2006.
Padilla pitched seven solid innings Sunday even though he said he'd been battling the flu the last couple of days, too. Afterward, Padilla talked about the rotation as a whole rather than just his performance.
"Everybody was patting each other on the back," he said through a translator. "I think it's important that all the starters are doing the job and that we're all talking to each other and helping each other. We need to keep doing that."
When Washington went to him after the sixth, Padilla, with 93 pitches under his belt, said he wanted to go one more.
"First time," Washington acknowledged. "Last year, he didn't say much."
•Team play: The Rangers had perfect attendance at a team dinner last Sunday on the eve of the season, which was not overlooked by the club's veterans, who took it as a sign more players were on the same page.
Besides the flu, they overcame their own errors. They won twice despite committing multiple errors. Last year, they lost seven of their first eight multi-error games and didn't win their second until Mother's Day.
And one other example of the new team-first attitude: Given a choice of taking either Saturday or Sunday off, Laird chose to play Sunday. He was 0-for-8 against Saturday starter Jered Weaver and 1-for-6 against Sunday's starter Jon Garland.
That, he said, had nothing to do with it.
"I just wanted to work with Padilla," he said. "I feel like if we can get on the same page and get something going, we can really get on a roll."
•The road: Last year, the Rangers had the worst road-winning percentage in the majors (.346). Had they finished above .500 at 41-40 on the road last year, they would have ended up with 88 wins. By taking two of three from the Angels, the Rangers won a road series in just their second try of the season. Last year, they didn't win a road series until late May, their eighth of the year.
And from today’s Newberg Report:
Texas is hitting .249 as a team. The club is nearly the worst in the league in fielding percentage and defensive efficiency rating, neither of which fully accounts for costly plays unmade. The schedule makers sent the Rangers on the road for the season’s first week, pitting them against the two teams that have earned every expert’s nod to win the West, the first of whom sent Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez to the mound.
And yet the club returns to Arlington, prepared to open the home half of the schedule, toting a 3-3 record. All things considered, we ought to feel pretty good about that.
Especially because the reason that Texas sits at .500 -- winning two games big and playing the other four tight -- is that the starting rotation has a 2.31 ERA (only Oakland and Seattle have better AL marks), twice as many strikeouts as walks, and only one non-quality start, which stands alone as best in baseball. On average, the starters are getting midway into the seventh inning, a remarkable feat for the first week of the season (and in the Rangers’ case in recent years, noteworthy any time of the year). Add the fact that four of the Rangers’ seven relievers to see game action have yet to be scored on (one of the other three, Joaquin Benoit, had what has to be the season’s filthiest inning of relief work in yesterday’s eighth), and it’s clear that the pitching is to credit for 3-3.
What makes a toolsy player? …
So MLB.com's reporters sought out Major League scouts in their organizations to break it all down -- by baseball tools, and by position. For the first installment of MLB's Best, it's about the tools.
And it's clear that Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki has a toolbox like none other in the game.
The proverbial five tools for position players -- hitting for average, hitting for power, defense, arm and speed -- are covered throughout the survey, in one way or another.
Only one player really scored high in all of the above: Ichiro.
The panel of scouts rated him tops in all of MLB in the categories of Best Hitter, Best Bat Control, Best Outfielder, Best Arm and Best Baserunner. He also rated second in the categories of Best Bunter, Fastest Runner and Best Basestealer.
Talk about elite among the elite.
"You could put Ichiro down for almost everything -- best arm, best outfielder (when he wants to be), best basestealer, best hitter, and he could hit 50 home runs if he wanted to, but he'd rather get his 220 hits and bat .330," said one scout.
Said another: "Magician with the bat -- hand-eye coordination off the charts."
Here are the Tools of MLB …
SI Vault gets more love …
Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.
Sports Illustrated magazine has created an online archive of its incredible coverage from the past 50 years and is offering it free to online visitors.
The SI Vault (http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com) is an overwhelming treasure chest for the sports junkie and sets a welcome — albeit slightly unsettling — benchmark for the free flow of information from a publisher's archived content. Unsettling, that is, for other publishers who now must reconfigure their profit models to compete against the Vault.
Visitors who can get past the unassuming and bland opening screen and just start clicking on navigation menus or images will dive almost blindly into sports moments entrenched in the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.
Sections such as Articles, Photos, Galleries, Video and Covers lead visitors on a historical journey through professional and amateur competitions told and photographed by some of the industry leaders of sports journalism.
Offering 150,000 stories, 2,800 covers and 500,000 photographs from the pages of the magazine, the site's best navigation feature is a large search box and drop-down menu that breaks content into 11 sport possibilities, including NFL, NBA, MLB, High School, NASCAR, Tennis, Golf and College Basketball.
Chocolate Rain – 18 million views?