Dirk admits his drive suffered after winning a title, still wishes he’d gotten to party more

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What do you do after you’ve done the best you can? Where do you go after you reach the apex? You spend 18 years of your life working towards something, and then, finally, after so many failures and disappointments, you walk away with proof of success. What do you do after that?

For Dirk Nowitzki, who has long been one of the most focused, dedicated players in the league, returning to the floor was hard. He’d endured so much, worked so hard to win a championship. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Nowitzki admitted that after winning the Finals last summer, he didn’t have the same kind of enduring drive he’s had for so much of his career.

“I know one thing changed, and that was my motivation was gone for a little bit,” Nowitzki went on. “And I really had to fight to get it back and get the fun back.”

via Mavericks NBA championship keeps Dirk Nowitzki motivated – Ian Thomsen – SI.com.

And you can tell. Nowitzki entered the NBA season out of shape for the first time, ever, and had to take a four-game break to rest his knee and go through his usual conditioning issues. To put it short, Nowitzki was not done celebrating. Even after a longer layoff than normal with the lockout, there wasn’t enough time for him after winning the championship to validate his career.

Part of that is because almost immediately, he was forced to jump into the European Championships to try and qualify for the Olympics with the German national team. The team flamed out, and Nowitzki told SI that bit too much into his ability to enjoy the title.

“Now I reached both goals, and it was just hard in the beginning,” he said. “The Euros came too quick, right after the [NBA] championship. I only had, like, a month off. I needed more time to get away and enjoy the championship. If I would have had a couple months off to enjoy it, party, get everything out of the way, then start slowly back up — that would have been the way to go. But I decided to play, to try my best, and we didnt qualify, unfortunately.”

via Mavericks NBA championship keeps Dirk Nowitzki motivated – Ian Thomsen – SI.com.

Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could wind up seeing your field goal percentage drop by six points, apparently.

Nowitzki came into camp out of shape and still wishes he’d gotten to party more. No wonder Cuban wants to get his guys out of the international competitions.

You can’t blame Dirk. You work so hard, you want to enjoy it. But that’s not how his career works. You can tell the lift is gone from Nowitzki, and it’ll be interesting to see if he  is able to regain it. Nowtizki in his usual reasonable, humble way, admits in the interview that winning another title will be difficult and the tone reflects a kind of resignation. He knows how long it took him to make his run, and how special that was, how different this team is. Hard to fault a guy for wanting to take a minute to just savor a life-long accomplishment.

(via IAmAGM.com)

Markieff Morris calls Paul Millsap a “crybaby,” Millsap responds “It definitely got personal now”

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The Atlanta Hawks owned the Washington Wizards from the opening tip Saturday, making it a 2-1 series with an easy win.

It’s a series now — and that includes trash talk.

Paul Millsap had 29 points, pulled down 14 boards, got to the line 11 times, and led the Hawks to the win. He got the calls he wanted this game, but Washington’s Markieff Morris was not exactly down with high praise for Millsap.

The key line here: “”He just did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. Get all the calls and you a crybaby.”

Millsap was asked about that comment in his postgame presser — and the best part may be Dennis Schroeder’s reaction.

“It definitely got personal now, yes. I mean, I don’t care. So what? He can take his loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”

These two have already had a beef this series.

Game 4 in this series just got a lot more interesting.

Marc Gasol game-winner tops Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance, evens Spurs/Grizzlies series 2-2

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Best. Game. Of. The. Playoffs.

So far at least.

Kawhi Leonard scored 16 consecutive points for the Spurs down the stretch of regulation to force overtime, then in OT hit a corner three with 7.2 seconds left to tie the game at 108-108. Leonard finished the game with a career playoff high of 43 points.

It wasn’t enough. Because in those final seconds Marc Gasol did this.

The 110-108 Memphis win ties the series at 2-2 as it heads back to San Antonio for Game 5. I might not want to sit next to Gregg Popovich on the flight home.

While Gasol hit the big shot, he never gets the chance if Mike Conley isn’t every kind of amazing through the clutch parts of this game. Conley finished with 35 points, and that includes a floater in the lane that forced OT (although Leonard got a pretty good look to end it in regulation and just missed). I’m surprised the Spurs switched on the pseudo pick on this play.

The Spurs struggled to get stops down the stretch, mostly because they had David Lee and Tony Parker both on the floor and Memphis did a good job getting switches onto those defenders. Spurs starting center and best defensive big Dewayne Dedmon missed the game due to an illness, and that ended up mattering.

Hawks take control early, romp past Wizards 116-98

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ATLANTA (AP) — Paul Millsap scored 29 points, Dennis Schroder had 27 and the Atlanta Hawks delivered an early knockout blow against Washington, cruising to a 116-98 victory Saturday that sliced the Wizards’ lead to 2-1 in the opening-round playoff series.

After two tight losses in Washington exposed some bad blood between the teams, Atlanta returned home and built a 25-point lead by late in the first quarter.

The Hawks were never seriously challenged by the Wizards, who were essentially a one-man team. John Wall kept up his dazzling play in the series, scoring 29 points, but the point guard got no help from his teammates.

The other Washington starters combined to score 30 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

Millsap also had 14 rebounds, while rookie Taurean Prince chipped in with 16 points.

Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.

The Hawks came out intent on moving the ball, getting open looks and cutting down on the turnovers that plagued them in the first two contests.

Talk about following the game plan.

Atlanta pushed out to a double-digit lead before the game was 3 minutes old and stretched the margin to 38-13 with just under a minute to go in the opening quarter on Schroder’s 3-pointer.

Wall did everything he could to spark the Wizards. He posed along the baseline after a thunderous dunk, which might have had more effect if the Wizards weren’t losing by 23 at the time. He also darted through the lane against a collapsing defense to bank in an improbable shot, drawing gasps from the Atlanta crowd.

Wall made all but one shot and scored 21 points in the first half, but the Wizards trailed 64-46 heading to the locker room. The other four Washington starters had just 18 points.

Beal, in particular, had a miserable night after averaging 26.5 points in the first two games. He was held to 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting, missing all six of his attempts beyond the arc.

TIP INS

Wizards: Wall is averaging 31 points per game in the series. … F Otto Porter Jr. left in the third quarter with a strained neck and didn’t return. … After a video review, Jason Smith was called for a flagrant foul against Millsap late in the third quarter.

Hawks: C Dwight Howard remains a non-factor in Atlanta’s offense. He scored five points and took just four shots, giving him a mere 15 attempts over the first three games. He did have 11 rebounds. … Schroder had some issues at the free-throw line, making only half of his eight attempts. Millsap did, too, going 5 of 9. … Atlanta had a double-digit lead for the final 44:24 of the game. … Prince picked up a technical foul for taunting the Wizards after an alley-oop dunk in the closing minutes. … The Hawks had just 11 turnovers.

 

Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic to play, start vs. Golden State in Game 3

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In 20 games after the Trail Blazers traded for him, Jusuf Nurkic averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Portland was 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and went 14-6, a surge that helped get them into the playoffs. Then a leg fracture had him sidelined for the end of the season and the start of the playoffs.

Until Saturday.

He will play limited minutes, but the Blazers will take it.

Portland is down 0-2 to the Warriors but are coming home to take on a Golden State team that will be without Kevin Durant again (strained calf) and coach Steve Kerr (illness).

Nurkic gives Portland some hope, he certainly helps their defense. We’ll see if that’s enough.