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.

 

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.