NBA Playoffs: Dallas shooters go cold… or was it the Heat?

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It will be the “chicken or the egg” question out of Game 1, and we will not really know the answer until we are well along in this series.

Did the Dallas Mavericks just miss shots, or did the Miami Heat make them miss?

Because the key Dallas shooters were shooting like they played for the Bulls. Jason Terry was 3-of-10, J.J. Barea 1-of-8, Peja Stojakovic 0-3, Jason Kidd 3-of-8. In the two previous series, the Mavericks shot 44.5 percent from 10-to-23 feet, but they were 4-of-14 in Game 1 (28.6 percent). That all was key in Miami’s 92-84 win.

“We had opportunities we just didn’t take advantage of it,” Jason Terry said in a postgame interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Defensively you hold them to 92 points, but offensively that was just a disaster for us….

“You have to finish at the basket, you have to make your wide open shots and we didn’t get that accomplished tonight.”

These were the kind of looks that Dallas hit to beat the Trail Blazers, Lakers and Thunder. Barea got loose in the lane but his floaters rimmed out. Terry got good looks at threes but they fell short.

If you’re a Mavs fan, you hope it was just Game 1 nerves, just one of those nights.

Because the other explanation is that the Heat threw off their rhythm.

Miami is the most athletic and aggressive defense the Mavericks have faced. Oklahoma City and Los Angeles were both plenty long, but neither played with the aggression that the Heat did. The Lakers never bothered to close out on shooters, Miami closed out fast. Shawn Marion curls off a pick and Dwyane Wade still blocks the shot. Shooters felt footsteps.

It looked to be that way with Terry — the closeouts of the Heat seemed to rush him, throw him off his rhythm.

“They are a very good defensive team and it was tough to get shots all night,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said in a postgame interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Both teams shot under 40 percent, so that gives you some idea of how difficult good, clean shots are going to be to get in this series.”

Then on top of all those missed shots — 42 of them — the Mavericks grabbed just six offensive rebounds. Miami got second chance opportunities the Mavs did not.

For Dallas to score enough to win Dirk Nowitzki has to have a big night (he had 27 and was solid), but Jason Terry and one other player have to join him. Shawn Marion had 16 points on 12 shots to help out the cause.

But if Terry and the other Mavs shooters are not more efficient, this series will end early.

Dallas needs to play at a faster pace, not get sucked into a grind-it-out defensive game. They need to run sets that make Jason Terry a playmaker, not just a spotup shooter.

Unlike the Bulls, we know Dallas can knock down open shots. That they didn’t was either just one of those off nights or it was Miami’s athleticism forcing them to rush. Miami will be the same relentless defense in Game 2 Thursday.

That’s when we’ll start to get a clearer picture of what went wrong for Dallas.

Stephen Curry back in full practice mode for Warriors

AP
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Stephen Curry resumed full practice with contact and could play for the defending champion Golden State Warriors as soon as Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday night against New Orleans.

Curry looked strong as he practiced Thursday wearing a protective brace over his sprained left knee, which has sidelined him since the injury March 23 – the same day he returned from a six-game absence because of a hurt right ankle.

Coach Steve Kerr is calling Curry questionable for Saturday. That could change if the two-time NBA MVP still feels fine Friday and is fine after one more day of full practice before the Pelicans visit Oracle Arena to begin the best-of-seven series.

“Steph practiced at 100 percent, he did everything, he looked good,” Kerr said. “What we have to do is see how his body responds the rest of the day, put him through another practice tomorrow. I think he needs to string together two good days but it was very positive today. … I think it’s been coming along pretty well. When we were in San Antonio and I was asked a question about how he was doing, I think I was able to give an answer, `He’s doing great but we haven’t ramped him up yet.’ I think today was an important day because it’s the first time he’s actually gone live action and he was allowed to go through practice. And he appears fine.”

Curry went through his usual shooting work with Kevin Durant from various spots after practice, cutting and exhibiting his fancy footwork and dribbling skills. The Warriors have played well without their floor leader, eliminating the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the first-round series with a 99-91 win Tuesday night.

The Pelicans will present a different, faster pace for the Warriors, so getting Curry back to push the ball and direct the offense would be important. Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, started in the first round in his place while Quinn Cook handled point guard duties late in the regular season with Curry out.

“We’re excited. I know he’s very eager to play,” said Klay Thompson. “He’s a competitor, so sitting out I know kills him. We can’t wait for him to get back whenever that is.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

PBT Extra: How big a threat are Pelicans to Warriors?

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Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans were the surprise of the first round of the NBA playoffs. We knew they were good, but they looked dominant on both ends sweeping the three-seed Portland Trail Blazers right out of the postseason (and into a somber period of reflection).

New Orleans looked like the best team in the West in the first round and now they take all that momentum to Golden State where… let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In this PBT Extra I discuss how the Pelicans have found an identity, but the matchups against Warriors are dramatically more challenging than what they saw in Portland. And that’s before Stephen Curry returns to the fold.

The Pelicans are a great story, but the pecking order in the West is real for good reason.

Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee undergoes surgery to fix core-muscle injury

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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DENVER — Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee underwent surgery to fix a core-muscle injury.

The team said Plumlee had the procedure performed Thursday morning by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.

Plumlee is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for a Nuggets team that narrowly missed out on the postseason.

The 28-year-old Plumlee was acquired by Denver as part of a deal in February 2017 that sent center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland. Plumlee signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Nuggets last September.

 

PBT Extra: Spurs many off-season questions start with Kawhi Leonard

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San Antonio has a lot of roster questions heading into this summer. When Danny Green opts out at $10 million a year, how much do they offer to bring back a key wing defender? What about Tony Parker, an unrestricted free agent? Will Manu Ginobili come back at age 78 41 for another season?

But at the top of the list: Can the Spurs relationship with Kawhi Leonard be repaired?

If so, do they trust his health enough to offer him the $219 million designated veteran max extension?

If not, do they test the trade market (likely we will know the answer to that around the draft, well before July 1)?

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.