NBA Playoffs: Will the Mavs come undone?

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There aren’t many choke job opportunities in your every day life.

Think about it. You can say someone choked on that stage, but they never go through 80% of speech or performance and then just when the crowd is preparing to give them a standing ovation trip on a banana peel or make a racist joke.  Just doesn’t happen. You don’t choke in meetings, you bomb. You don’t choke when fixing your car, remodeling your kitchen, or raising your kids.

So for something that doesn’t happen in the majority of human existence, the Mavericks have an unconscionable amount of experience with doing so. The question now is if undergoing yet another catastrophic collapse is going to affect them the way it has before… except, you know, those weren’t the same teams.

The 2006 team that lost the Finals after being up? Yeah, here’s that roster. There are two players left from that team. Oh, but how about that 2007 team that lost to the freaking Warriors in the first round? Yup, same two players. Now, you can be a troglodyte and suppose that Dirk Nowitzki, one of the best clutch performers in the game, and Jason Terry, whose fourth quarters are legendary, are the problem, since they make up those two players, or, you can assume that the first was a monumental performance from one of the greatest players of his time in drawing fouls and making a difference, the second was a matter of matchups which can derail big-picture logic in a series faster than anything else, and this?

This was just Brandon Roy putting on a show. What are you going to do, really?

But that is the question now. What are the Mavs going to do? Are they going to come apart as the pundits are hoping, praying, wishing they will so they can pile on? Or will they do what teams as good as they are do, which is buckle down, get over it, come out in Game 5 at home and crush the hopes of the upstart in a rain of superior execution and experience? This is an entirely different Mavericks team than the one that fell apart against the Warriors. Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, Terry, Nowitzki, they all have experience in these types of situations and know how to respond.

Even more dubious? The odds of Brandon Roy doing what he did again. Forget Roy’s injury issues. Let’s assume the Brandon Roy of old is back, just for fun. Roy was launching shots that could have been, should have been, and would have been better contested. The Rose Garden got to the Mavericks, there’s no doubt. But a team that’s been as good defensively as the Mavericks have will respond. The Mavs certainly could use Caron Butler in this spot, but even without him, there are systemic adjustments they can make to respond.

It was a tough loss, but the Mavericks were a few missed plays away from going up 3-1 in this series. It’s a best-of-three again. But really, if the Mavericks thought this was going to be easy, they were fooling themselves. On the other hand, it works both ways. If the Blazers expect this Mavericks team to lay down and die, they’re probably confused in their own right.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.