Mavs win 50 games for the 10th straight season

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The Dallas Mavericks have this odd tendency to win lots and lots of
basketball games. Or at least the post-2000 Mavericks have such a
tendency. Before that, Dallas suffered a decade of basketball
incompetence, boasting win totals of 40 and 36 in their most successful
seasons. In the 90s, the Mavs won 30.3% of their games, had back-to-back Netsesque seasons in ’92-’93 (11 wins) and ’93-’94 (13 wins), and were an NBA laughing stock.

Then, two things happened:

  1. The Dallas Mavericks traded for Dirk Nowitzki on the night of the 1998 NBA Draft.
  2. On January 4th, 2000, Mark Cuban became the majority owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Both are obviously very important to what happened next, though it’s hard to determine exactly how much impact one would have had without the other. Nowitzki is an all-time great, but how far does he get in this league without an owner and a head coach (pre-senility Don Nelson) who were supportive of what he could do rather than try to mold him into something that he wasn’t? On the flip side, how does the Mark Cuban regime fair without the stabilizing influence of one of the league’s top stars?

Both have been absolutely crucial to what has happened in Dallas over the last ten seasons, and both are, to this day, consistently undervalued.

This isn’t a call for awareness on behalf of Cuban and Nowitzki, though, just a call for recognition for what they’ve been able to accomplish. Those two are the undeniable constants throughout this decade of Maverick basketball, in which Dallas has not only made the playoffs every season, but won a whopping 50 games every time out. Only three other teams in history can claim that same level of consistent success.

One of those teams is the Celtics, who pulled of 10 consecutive 50-win seasons from 1958-1968. Another is the Lakers, who did so from 1979-1991. The third and final team is the Spurs, who have done so since 1999, and have a chance to extend their streak if they can win five of their last eight games. Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki. Think about that.

Half of their 50-win seasons are actually 57+ win seasons, with three of them topping 60. The Memphis Grizzlies, who were the Mavs’ opponent for their 50th win last night, have won 50 games just once in their 15-year history. Think about that.

 The most obvious negative response to Dallas success will point out that for all of the Mavs’ success, they don’t have any championships to show for it. True. But Cuban has put together a team that has had enduring success and was considered a perennial contender. You can pick out years that were weaker for the Mavs than others (2004, 2008), but this is a team that was built to win games and did so at an alarming rate. There may not be a trophy in the Maverick office, but this is still a team that has experienced some incredible success over the last 10 years.

Even more impressive, though, is this: even after 10 years of excellence, 10 years of winning, and 10 years (well 12, really) of Nowitzkiness, the Mavs aren’t slowing down. They could very well be at this same mark next year, cruising into their 50th win with a few games to spare. That’s just how it goes in Dallas, and Mavs fans accustomed to an owner willing to go to any lengths to win and the greatest player to ever wear a Maverick uniform don’t know any other way.

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.