Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks - Game Five

Dallas gets to sit back and relax… but don’t expect rust


Dallas now has some time to put its feet up and relax after polishing off the Thunder 100-96 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. They’ve got a wait ahead of them. At least until next Tuesday (if Miami wins on Thursday night), maybe until June 2 (if Chicago wins). Either way, nearly a week off or more.

Not that the time off will bother them. Remember they had eight days off after sweeping away the Lakers and everyone thought they would be rusty, then Dirk Nowitzki came out in Game 1 against the Thunder and hit his first eight shots.

If anything, for a veteran team like the Mavericks, the extra days off and the slow schedule of games in the finals makes things easier. More time to rest the bumps and bruises on bodies that don’t heal as quickly as they once did. Their execution — the key to their playoff success — will not suffer.

And it is more time to scout. To get ready for what is next.

That most likely will be Miami. Dallas swept the season series from Miami 2-0, but as both games were played before Christmas it’s hard to say these are the same teams.

The one thing to note from those games is that Dallas’ defense really bothered Miami, which shot just 40.9 percent against them in those two games and 52 percent on shots inside three feet. The Tyson Chandler effect, which could matter in a meeting now.

Miami is certainly playing better than they were in December, but how Miami would match up with Dirk Nowitzki could be interesting. Chris Bosh would get a shot, but that could work about as well as Lamar Odom did for the Lakers. Udonis Haslem may bet more time, and you can bet the athletic Heat will work hard to deny Dirk his spots on the floor. But everybody has tried that in the playoffs and it hasn’t mattered.

Chicago, on the other hand, swept the Mavericks and the Bulls defense did a number on Dallas. The Mavericks averaged just 92.1 points per 100 possessions against Chicago, more than 15 points below their season average. The Mavericks shot just 37.8 percent again the Bulls. Again, the teams have evolved since then but it would be something to keep an eye on.

Miami, up 3-1 on Chicago, is certainly the more likely option. But either way Dallas doesn’t care, they are just pumped to be back. The only question is how long Dallas has to wait.

However long it is, don’t expect it to bother Dallas. Expect them to come out hot and firing.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.