What’s on their mind Saturday: Dallas Mavericks

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The Mavs have done what they set out to do. Well, okay, not really. They probably wanted to win both games in Miami, devastate their spirits ans set up a sweep. Easy is always better in such things. But a more realistic goal was to split the two games in Miami and regain homecourt advantage. Which they know have. And while the pressure is undoubtedly higher on the Heat going into Game 3, on their off-day, the Mavericks have to face the reality that after regaining that homecourt advantage, if that’s to be their key to victory they must win three straight games against the most talented team in the NBA. Here’s what’s on the Mavericks’ mind on Saturday, their practice day prior to Game 3 Sunday.

More of same on James

See, it’s a rhyme! The plan regarding LeBron James after Game 2 has to be “yes, more of that please.” Shawn Marion’s done an absolutely incredible job, just as he did against Kevin Durant in the WCF. His work in “containing” LeBron James, a sticking point for Rick Carlisle, has been huge. The Mavericks didn’t freak out after James’ perimeter barrage in Game 1 (or the first three quarters of Game 2). Instead, they stuck to the plan. “Getting beat by fadeaway 3-pointers is better than getting beat at the rim.” The Mavericks have to live with one or the other, and Marion is going under screens and hedging hard to keep James in front of him. The Mavs’ have helped to create issues for the Heat  in this set by employing a full-court press. The objective isn’t to actually pressure the ball, it’s to take time off the clock. If James is setting up the offense with less than 15 on the clock, the Mavericks have a higher chance of shutting off option 1a and 1b, forcing the Heat into their second option: “jack it up from deep.” That’s where they want the game to be. So really on Saturday, Carlisle will be enforcing “more of the same.”

Get a handle on yourselves

Turnovers were a significant problem for Dallas in Game 2. They very nearly cost the Mavericks the game. You turn the ball over against the Heat, and they will capitalize. Rick Carlisle categorized them as the best finishers in transition in basketball before Game 2. A large function of that 15-point lead the Mavericks had to come back from was due to those easy baskets. Carlisle will likely stress cutting down on those mistakes at practice Saturday.

Believe in yourselves… or someone like you

Carlisle’s spoken a lot about believing in what the Mavericks are trying to do, and you can see that the Mavericks are buying into that concept. Oddly enough, Carlisle’s sending a message about the Mavs believing in a version of themselves which isn’t accurate. The Mavericks aren’t a great defensive team. They’re extremely good, that’s why they’re here. But they were seventh in defensive efficiency this season. They also weren’t a great rebounding team, but again really good, seventh in opponent OREB%. But Carlisle has told his team consistently to play “their game” which is “stops and defensive rebounding.” It’s a strange strategy but it’s working. Expect to hear more of the same from the team after practice Saturday.

 

Cavaliers, Warriors sweeps mean time to rest, get mental breather

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant can take some pressure off that tender left calf. LeBron James has extra time to recoup after barely leaving the floor in the first round.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr scheduled some medical appointments as he deals with debilitating symptoms still affecting him nearly two years after complications from a pair of back surgeries.

The two star-studded teams expected by many to face off once more in the NBA Finals each swept through their respective first-round playoff series in four games, leaving ample time for the Cavaliers and Warriors to rest up, heal up and prepare for the next opponent.

“It gives me a mental break. As far as physically, I am who I am,” James said. “I’ve played so many games over the years, the best break for me is probably when I’m done.”

Of course guys like James and Draymond Green are already eager to get back on the court.

Cleveland now knows its next opponent is Toronto, while the Warriors were still waiting out the Clippers-Jazz series.

“Definitely have gotten antsy to play,” Green said Friday. “But you see that break and you’re excited about it, just to get that time to rest and get everybody back as close to 100 (percent) as possible for the next round. At the same time you do get antsy to get back on the floor and back in the rhythm of things. I think it’s been a good week for us to sweep and get this time off.”

Durant, still receiving treatment on his left leg and knee, spent Thursday at a San Francisco Giants baseball game. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue threw a huge watch party Thursday night so players and members of the organization could see the Raptors close out the Bucks in six games.

Golden State scrimmaged Friday to stay sharp, while Cleveland players have competed in such ways as racing on cardiovascular machines in the weight room to stay fresh and motivated.

James led the league in minutes during the regular season then played nearly 44 per game in the first-round sweep of Indiana – familiar territory after the Cavs also swept Detroit in the first round last season, then followed by eliminating Atlanta in the minimum four games.

“I’m ready to get this thing going, but obviously I’m not going to rush the process,” James said. “… But, yeah, I don’t like the way I feel when we’re not playing.”

In 2015, when the Warriors captured their first championship in 40 years, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving suffered a freak Game 1 injury when he fractured his left kneecap, and Kevin Love was already lost to a dislocated left shoulder.

Last June, Stephen Curry had returned from a knee injury but never fully got healthy and the thought was the Warriors wore down after chasing and breaking the Chicago Bulls’ regular-season wins record with 73 victories.

“If you could sweep every series that would be perfect,” Durant said, “because you just want to play well and then you’ll worry about the rest afterward. That’s the situation we’re in. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up, so it’s good to have a few days to get your bodies right and your mind right and just get back to the drawing board in terms of individual work, team work.”

In the Warriors’ case, it also has meant more time working with Mike Brown as acting head coach while Kerr is away. The reigning NBA Coach of the Year missed Games 3 and 4 at Portland because he was in such discomfort, having dealt with headaches, neck pain and nausea that recently became worse.

While Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is most known for sitting several star players at once without regard to anything but his team’s best interest, others have caught on and replicated the strategy of spelling players in order to pace for the long haul.

In March 2015, the Warriors lost at Denver with Curry watching – along with Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut – in the first game of a back-to-back. Oh, did Kerr take heat for it, even personally answering a few emails. And the Warriors reached out to other upset fans and sent along care packages.

“As a coach your responsibility is to keep your players healthy and there are times when guys need a night off,” Kerr said.

In December, Cleveland caused an uproar by resting James, Love and Irving in a loss at Memphis. Lue then sat several starters for the final game of the regular season against Toronto, and the teams will meet again in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting Monday.

Now, the Cleveland coach insists, James can handle the heavy minutes when it matters most.

“His body can take it,” Lue said, “so I’m not worried about what outside people say.”

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

 

Chris Paul told Paul Pierce: “You’re not ending your career in Utah”

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When the Clippers lose their final game this season — maybe Sunday, maybe not for weeks — the Hall of Fame career of Paul Pierce will come to an end.

It’s not why Doc Rivers was leaning so heavily on Pierce Friday night, that’s more desperation on a shorthanded (and not that deep to start with) lineup. The Clippers got away with 20+ minutes of Pierce on Friday and still got the win.

He even served as an inspiration for Chris Paul, as CP3 said in his postgame press conference.

The best part of that video? DeAndre Jordan‘s reaction.

You can be sure Utah Jazz fans will take this comment as a slight and let CP3 hear about it next season. As for the Jazz players, they are heading into Game 7, how much more motivation do they need.

John Wall’s chasedown block of Dennis Schroder, layup saved game for Wizards (VIDEO)

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Washington had been up 22 points in the third quarter and seemed to be cruising to a win in Atlanta, and with it a trip to the second round… but it would not be that easy. The Hawks made their push back, knocking down threes and chipping away at the Wizards lead until it was all the way down to 93-90, a one possession game.

Then John Wall took over.

It started with the big play you see above — a chasedown block on Dennis Schroder, which turned into a Wall layup on the other end.

That play changed the momentum. Washington closed the game on a 22-9 run where Wall scored the final 13 points on his way to 42 for the night on just 25 shots. The end result was a 115-99 Wizards win to close the Hawks out 4-2.

Steve Ballmer loses control after Austin Rivers three, creates another meme

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Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer has been a meme machine this series. First, there was the sad face after the Clippers Game 5 loss at home.

Then Friday, there was his reaction to an Austin Rivers three.

Ballmer’s reactions may be the best part of the Game 7 between these teams Sunday.