Category Archives: Dallas Mavericks, Sports, News

Dallas Mavericks, Sports, News

Playoff form? Dirk: ‘I’m just feeling good again’

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki declared recently that the playoffs have essentially already begun for the Dallas Mavericks.

The big German certainly has looked like postseason Dirk recently.

There were a couple of performances last week that were reminiscent of the 2011 title run, when Nowitzki was an efficient scoring machine and clutch executioner. First, he lit the Los Angeles Clippers up for 33 points, outscoring the West contender in overtime. He followed that up a few days later by dropping 35 on the Chicago Bulls, capping the Mavs’ miraculous comeback with eight points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winner.

Clearly, this is a case of fuel being poured on the competitive fire of a legend who is a member of the exclusive, four-man 25-point, 10-rebound career postseason club, right?

Actually, Dirk offers a much simpler explanation for his recent return to Hall of Fame form: He’s fully healthy and finally feels like himself again.

“Honestly, it’s just me starting to feel better again,” Nowitzki said. “I was struggling early. Honestly, on a normal season, I’d just be hitting my midseason form, but unfortunately this season I missed [29] games. So this season is already over.

“Instead of me playing good ball in January, February, March right now, the season is unfortunately over. I’m just feeling good again.”

This is one of the instances where the German-to-English translation isn’t entirely accurate. Nowitzki didn’t mean to suggest that Dallas is done fighting when he said the season is already over. He just meant that the regular season is nearly finished.

As Nowitzki said after the Mavs were humiliated in Houston in early March – and most of us considered the thought of Dallas extending its dozen-year postseason streak to be pure fantasy – he’s never given up on anything in his career. He’s darn sure not about to throw in the towel when the Mavs are a win away from shaving and a game and a half back of the West’s final playoff spot with a huge road game against the Los Angeles Lakers next on the schedule.

It’s far from ideal that the Mavs are in position to have to fight for a playoff berth. However, it’s a heck of a lot better than the way things looked for the Mavs after Nowitzki’s extended absence while recovering from preseason knee surgery and his miserable performance after his return.

“It’s obviously fun to always play for something,” Nowitzki said. “If we played for the 12th seed right now, it’d probably be a little different, but this way there’s still something to play for. We’re working every day for it. That’s obviously more fun. “

O.J. Mayo’s perspective from the neighboring locker: “You see him really champing at the bit to get to that eighth spot, doing everything in his will to keep us in striking distance. We’ve got to do whatever we’ve got to do to give him some help.”

It’s not as if Nowitzki’s offensive explosions last week came out of nowhere. He’s one of the primary reasons the Mavs have a puncher’s chance of making the playoffs.

There were flashes of the old Dirk in February, such as his 30-point, 13-rebound showing in a losing effort against the Lakers.

March was by far Nowitzki’s best month of the season, as he averaged 20.0 points while making 53.3 percent of his shots from the floor, including 48.3 percent from 3-point range. Not coincidentally, the Mavs went 11-5 to climb back into the bottom of the West playoff picture.

It’s a far cry from Dirk’s dreadful December, when he rushed back despite his rehab not going well and scored a total of 30 points on 32.4 percent shooting in his first four games, all losses.

“It’s just I feel night and day difference since I came back,” Nowitzki said. “I was dragging. Every step, it wasn’t fun running up and down, and that’s obviously a problem. But I like running again, I like moving, I like getting into the shot, bending my knees. It’s a matter of feeling good again and trying to help the team win.

“It’s sad when you’re out there and your mind wants to make moves in December and January and your body just doesn’t respond right. When you can’t do those moves, that’s just sad. I’m just happy that when my mind sees something now in a split-second … and my body’s able to respond and do that move.”

Nowitzki has been an efficient scorer since the All-Star break. However, he’s only recently gotten back to being the no-doubt closer who demands the ball during crunch time and delivers.

That’s proof that he’s broken free of the physical and mental burdens that slowed him for much of this season.

“He’s been battling injuries and people have been saying he’s not the same or whatever,” Brandan Wright said. “But he’s definitely back.”

Too late or just in time?

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695374/playoff-form-dirk-im-just-feeling-good-again

3-pointer: Coach praises off-target O.J. Mayo

DALLAS – Coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t stop raving about one of his starters after Saturday’s stunning comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.

No, it wasn’t Dirk Nowitzki, the dude who scored eight of his season-high-tying 35 points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winning bucket.

Carlisle kept gushing about how proud he was of O.J. Mayo, the guy who finished the game with four points on 1-of-13 shooting.

“Here’s a guy who is banged up, and I just thought he was totally engaged in the game and did a lot of things even though he didn’t shoot the ball well,” Carlisle said. “If we’re going to get where we want to get in the next nine games, the example that he set out there today is really important.

“That’s just grit and guts – being totally in and totally committed.”

Mayo is playing through the pain of a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, an injury suffered on a hustle play late in Tuesday’s win over the Clippers and diagnosed by an MRI on Friday. He’s the only Maverick who has played in every game this season.

Mayo played with a harness protecting the shoulder during Thursday’s loss to the Pacers but ditched the restrictive device after the first quarter Saturday afternoon.

“I just said, to heck with it, and just tried to play without it,” said Mayo, whose only bucket was a big one, a driving layup to trim the deficit to six with 1:44 remaining. “If your shot is broke, you at least want to shoot it comfortably. You want to be comfortable shooting a broke shot. You don’t want to be uncomfortable shooting a broke shot.

“But, hey, it was a great win, a win we needed. I’ll get in the gym tomorrow and try to fix that break in my shot and keep playing hard.”

Easter Sunday is officially a day off for the Mavs, but Mayo has work to do.

There’s not much Mayo or the Mavs’ medical staff can do to ease the pain in his shoulder before Tuesday’s critical game against the Lakers.

“It is what it is,” Mayo said. “You’ve got to deal with it. I can still walk, run and communicate out there, so whatever it takes to help us win.”

Mayo managed to help the Mavs win despite an awful shooting outing Saturday, which is why his coach kept praising him.

A few more notes from the Mavs’ thrilling comeback win:

1. Wright big off bench: Brandan Wright’s streak of starting ended after four games, with Elton Brand replacing him in the lineup. Wright responded with his first double-double in a Dallas uniform.

Wright scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed a career-high-tying 13 rebounds in 23 minutes against the Bulls.

“No matter who starts, when you get an opportunity to play your minutes, just play them to the best of your ability,” Wright said. “That’s what it’s been about the whole year. I know it’s been a revolving door at the center position. We know what to do when we get in the game.”

Wright’s last double-double came on April 1, 2011, when his New Jersey Nets lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. Wright noted that the lottery-bound Nets were simply playing out the string at that point.

“This one means much more,” Wright said. “We’re playing for something.”

Wright’s emergence is part of the reason the Mavs are playing in something. After being in and out of the rotation all season, Wright averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game in March, when the Mavs went 11-5.

2. ‘Like a video game’: It appeared early in the fourth quarter that Nate Robinson was going to hog the headlines after this game.

Chicago’s backup point guard caught fire, going on a personal 11-2 run after the Mavs and Bulls entered the fourth quarter tied. Then Robinson drilled a 32-footer, pulling up from near the midcourt logo after tracking down a loose ball with the shot clock ticking down, giving him 14 of his 25 points in span of six minutes.

“He was so on fire that it was almost like a video game,” Nowitzki said, who went into video-game mode down the stretch.

Robinson was 9-of-16 from the floor and 7-of-7 from 3-point range, but his last bucket was that 32-footer. He missed his last two shots, including a jumper at the buzzer that could have sent the game into overtime.

Give Mike James a lot of the credit for cooling off Robinson.

“My teammates looked at me and said, ‘Look, stop asking for help on that screen. Turn that water hose off,’” James said.

3. Rally cry: The Mavs get a day off before leaving for a huge four-game road trip. That trip begins with a must-win game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers before a Thursday date in Denver against the Nuggets have a West-best 33-3 home record.

“Regardless of who the opponents are coming up, it’s just important that we continue to fight and battle and stick together,” Carlisle said. “That’s the rally cry.”

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695365/3-pointer-coach-praises-off-target-o-j-mayo

Nowitzki after clutch dominance: ‘We find a way’

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DALLAS — After almost 15 seasons, folks around these parts should have learned their lesson.

Don’t ever leave a game when Dirk Nowitzki is on the floor, no matter how low the Mavericks’ odds of winning seem. You might miss a legendary performance.

Hundreds of Mavs fans found that out the hard way Saturday afternoon, departing the American Airlines Center after the Chicago Bulls built a dozen-point lead in the fourth quarter. Those in the sellout crowd who stuck around were treated to vintage Dirk clutch dominance.

Nowitzki finished his season-high-matching 35-point performance with the kind of scoring flurry we’ll be talking about long after he’s been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The bearded face of the franchise scored eight points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing with 2.9 ticks on the clock, to cap a 15-1 closing run.

Mavs 100, Bulls 98.

You had to see Nowitzki celebrate — arms raised, his thumb-and-two-fingers 3 symbol formed on both hands, screams coming the middle of all that facial hair — to believe it.

A dozen down with less than five minutes to go against an Eastern Conference playoff team that ranks third in the NBA in scoring defense? That’s not too much of a mountain for the Mavs to climb with their German in a groove.

“It’s kind of like the story of our season, honestly,” said Nowitzki, who was 14-of-17 from the floor and 5-of-6 from 3-point range in the game, 6-of-7 and 3-of-4 in the fourth. “Every time people write us out or say we’re done, for some reason, we find a way to hang around.

“The same happened today. I think everybody was thinking this thing was over, and we found a way to turn it around. The same with our season. Probably three weeks ago, nobody thought we could even make it a close race, and here we are.”

Presumed dead not too long ago, here the Mavs are, scrapping their way into the fight for the West’s final playoff seed despite being 10 games under .500 2½ months ago. Here they are, sitting at 36-37 after winning 11 of 16 games in March, preparing to head out on a huge four-game road trip that begins Tuesday with a must-win game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

And here Dirk is, peaking into playoff form just in time to have a chance to extend the Mavs’ postseason streak (12 years and counting) and make up for what had been the most miserable season of his career.

Dirk doubters have had a heck of a lot of ammo. After all, Nowitzki is 34 years old, missed the season’s first 27 games after getting his right knee scoped and admittedly stunk for several weeks after his return.

However, he’s returned to 2011 title form recently. Just look at his performances in the Mavs’ past two wins, heart-pounders over two playoff-bound teams. He had eight of his 35 points in overtime during Tuesday’s thriller over the Los Angeles Clippers. He one-upped that with eight points over the last three possessions in Saturday’s win over the Bulls.

“Whatever they say we can’t do as a team or he can’t do as a player, he finds a way,” Elton Brand said. “He works at it and finds a way to win. That’s the bottom line.”

Nowitzki found a way Saturday with a shooting showing that was epic even by his standards, making a jaw-dropping hot streak by Chicago’s Nate Robinson (14 of his 25 points early in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter) just a footnote.

“Really, there was no other chance,” Nowitzki said of his crunch-time takeover. “It’s not like somebody else was unbelievably hot. You kind of see how the game is going out there and kind of let it all hang out and see what happens.”

Nowitzki’s most impressive shot might have come a little before the midway point of the fourth quarter, when he banked in a high-arcing, one-legged fadeaway 12-footer with a defender draped all over him. That bucket looked like it’d be irrelevant after the Bulls drained 3s on their next three trips, but the Bulls didn’t score from the floor again, giving Nowitzki a chance to be the hero.

Nowitzki’s most important shots came in that final minute: a 3 from the right corner, a baseline one-legger and the game-winning 3 after a driving Vince Carter drew Luol Deng and dished to Dirk on the left wing.

“He hit some crazy shots, man, and just did what he does,” O.J. Mayo said. “He pulled us through. He’s a cold boy; got ice in his veins.”

It’s the sort of performance we’ve seen so many times from Nowitzki. He now has 12 winning buckets in the final 10 seconds of games during his career, not including the playoffs.

This was the kind of outing Nowitzki had over and over again during the Mavs’ remarkable title run. Two years later, the Mavs need him to keep ‘em coming to make the playoffs.

Doubt Dirk at your own risk.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695359/dirk-nowitzki-after-clutch-dominance-we-find-a-way

Brand replaces Wright in Mavs’ starting lineup

DALLAS — The Mavericks’ best banger is in the starting lineup against the Bulls.

Elton Brand will start at center instead of Brandan Wright.

That’s clearly an attempt by Rick Carlisle to prevent the Mavs from being overpowered by Eastern Conference bullies for the second consecutive game. The Pacers had a 55-34 rebounding edge in Thursday night’s rout at the AAC, and the Bulls play a similarly physical style.

The slender, 6-foot-10 Wright started the last four games and has been a major factor in the Mavs’ March success (10-5 record). However, he was a nonfactor against Indiana, finishing with four points and three rebounds in 22 minutes. Brand had five points and a team-high eight rebounds in 21 minutes against the Pacers.

This is the Mavs’ 22nd starting lineup of the season.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695344/brand-replaces-wright-in-mavs-starting-lineup

After quick flush, Mavs can’t let Bulls bully them

DALLAS – There’s no denying the fact that the Mavericks came up with a terribly timed dud, getting blown out by the Indiana Pacers on a night that they could have made up a game on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Elton Brand called it “disheartening.” Dirk Nowitzki used a more simple term: “It sucks.”

PODCAST Rick Carlisle joins Galloway Company to discuss getting Dirk Nowitzki more involved in the Mavericks’ game plan and much more.

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It’s the kind of loss that could linger with a mentally weak team.

The Mavs have many flaws, but mental weakness isn’t among them. For better or worse, they’ve proven that they can get past an awful loss.

“I think we have plenty and plenty of tough losses this year,” Nowitzki said. “We should know how to recover from it and flush it and maybe watch some of this stuff [Friday]. … It’s the same way we flushed all the other 40 losses and come back ready to play Saturday.”

Just look at how the 35-37 Mavs responded to their last blowout loss, when they were humiliated in Houston on March 3. They beat the Rockets in a rematch a few days later, starting a four-game winning streak and a stretch of nine wins in 12 games.

In this case, the Mavs must bounce back against a different set of East bullies before heading on a road trip that begins with a potentially pivotal game against the Lakers.

For now, the Mavs’ focus is firmly on the Bulls, who they face at 1 p.m. Saturday. They’re well aware that Chicago is just as capable of kicking their butts on the boards as the Pacers were.

Indiana, the league’s top rebounding differential team, had a 55-34 edge on the glass Thursday night. The Mavs rank 28th in rebounding differential.

“It was a wipeout inside as far as the rebounding,” Carlisle said. “That’s been a challenge for us and we’ve got to get ready for it again on Saturday, because Chicago’s got the same kind of team.”

That requires a quick flushing and refreshed energy for a Mavs team fighting for a chance to sneak into the playoffs.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695328/after-quick-flush-mavs-cant-let-bulls-bully-them

O.J. Mayo (shoulder) undergoing MRI

DALLAS — Shooting guard O.J. Mayo is undergoing an injury to determine the severity of the injury to his left shoulder.

PODCAST Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons Durrett to discuss the historical perspective of Miami’s 27-game win streak, the Mavericks’ playoff push, the job Rick Carlisle has done this season and if it’s a good idea for the Mavs to shave their .500 beards.

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Mayo, the only Maverick to play in every game this season, suffered the injury when he crashed into courtside seats while chasing a loose ball late during Tuesday’s overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers. He played in Thursday night’s loss to the Pacers with a harness on the shoulder and participated in Friday’s non-contact practice before going to the doctor.

“He’s sore,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s been one of our soldiers. He’s played hurt all year long. He took a pretty good hit on it in the Clipper game late and it’s bothering him, so we’re going to get it looked at and make sure it’s something that isn’t a serious injury.

“The hope is that it’s not and he can continue to play, but we’ll see.”

Mayo ranks second on the Mavs in scoring (16.3 points per game), second in assists (4.4) and leads the team in minutes (35.7).

The 25-year-old Mayo has missed only one game due to injury or illness during his five-year career. His toughness is one of the traits the Mavs like most about the fifth-year veteran, who can test free agency again this summer if he decides not to exercise the player option in his contract for next season.

“The guy had a torn up hand in a meaningless exhibition game in a foreign country and he insisted on playing,” Carlisle said. “He has not missed a practice or a game this year. So if he’s able to play and there’s nothing in there that says we should sit him out, you do the math. I think he’s going to be there for us, but we’ll see. We have to have the doctor take a look at it and we have to take a picture of it.”

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695333/o-j-mayo-shoulder-undergoing-mri