NBA Playoffs: Mavericks and Blazers wrestle for control

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Throw out the term “pivotal” in this series. Get the phrase “must-win” out of your head. They have no place here. The Mavericks can take the game Tuesday and Game 3 and nothing will be assured. There’s too much volatility in this series. The Mavericks have perimeter acuity. The Blazers have much stronger post play. The Mavericks have the best player in the series. The Blazers have a swarm of wings. The Mavericks run the break exceptionally well. The Blazers defend like madness. We saw all that in Game 1, some arguable officiating, and a whole fury of runs.

So as Game 2 strikes up in Dallas, the question becomes which side will tip.  In Game 1, the Mavericks’ got a super shooting performance from Jason Kidd to tip the scales in Dallas’ favor. But the Blazers made long runs with the play of LaMarcus Aldridge, who the Mavericks can’t defend. The Blazers held leads in the first and fourth quarter. But Dirk Nowitzki matched Aldridge, dropping 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Blazers defended him tough on a lot of the shots. But that’s what Dirk Nowitzki does.

Jose Juan Barea played 19.2 minutes and was -9. And his heavy rotation at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter was only one part of the bizarre rotation decisions from coach Rick Carlisle in Game 1. Carlisle played a long stretch with a lineup with Barea, Terry, Peja Stojakovic and Shawn Marion. It resulted in a long, successful run from the Blazers. It also gave Dallas’ starters a long rest they used to bury the Blazers over the final six minutes.

Gerald Wallace was limited in Game 1. Eight points on 13 shots, five rebounds, one assist. That’s not a very Crash-like performance. The Blazers need Wallace in particular because of the Mavericks’ weakness at wing. Shawn Marion outplayed Wallace in the “versatile forward that jumps a lot” department. That’s up there with Jason Kidd outplaying Andre Miller in the “old man that makes you wonder just how he’s still managing to be effective in any reasonable capacity” department for things the Blazers can’t survive in Game 2.

Game 1 was a slow, methodical affair between two veteran playoff teams. Expect more of that until one team gets four wins. And until one team does that, you need to consider this the first-round series most in flux.

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?