Dirk Nowitzki, Jeremy Evans

Tuesday NBA grades: Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash cement legend status

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wondering if you really should cross a goat and a sheep

source:  Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks. When you pass Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson on a list, you are entering rarified air. With a catch-and-shoot 17 foot jumper from the elbow area early in the fourth quarter, Dirk Nowitzki passed Robertson for 10th on the NBA’s all time scoring list. Nowitzki now has 26,714 points in his career after his 21 on Tuesday. The German machine will go down as one of the great scorers to ever play the game — a 7-footer with three point range, an ability to stay balanced in awkward situations, and he has that ridiculous one-legged faraway. He’s a future Hall of Famer, the greatest European player ever in the NBA. When he’s gone in a few years the league will just feel a little emptier.

source:  Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers. With a smart little outlet pass late in the first half that led to a Jodie Meeks dunk, Steve Nash passed Mark Jackson for third on the NBA’s all time assists list — Nash now has 10,335. He did not get to that number thanks to his incredible physical gifts, rather he did it with hard work and an almost psychic feel for the game. He made himself a good shooter so teams just couldn’t lay off him and dare him to shoot. Nash is one of the best ever at just keeping his dribble alive, probing and once he sees an opening making the defense pay. For a guy whose career is ending on a literally painful note it is good to see Nash securing is spot in history.

source:  Atlanta Hawks. They lost to the Pistons, who recently lost to the Sixers. Yet Atlanta is still almost certain to make the playoffs — thanks again Eastern Conference. Even after this ugly loss the Hawks have a 1.5 game lead over the Knicks. The Hawks magic number is still three (combination of their wins and Knicks losses). The Hawks four games left are a back-to-back with Boston and Brooklyn, then they close out with Miami and Orlando, you’d thick there are three wins in there but who knows with this team. Yet they will make the playoffs and in the first round and likely face the Heat (for Miami that will be kind of like when Florida State football program’s home opener is against The Citadel, it’s just a glorified practice round).

source:  James Harden, Houston Rockets. Yes, it still counts if you do it against the Lakers “defense.” Harden had 33 points — 18 of those in the third quarter when the Rockets pulled away — on just 15 shots, plus he dished out 12 assists as the Rockets get the win. Houston put up 140 points on 57.7 percent shooting, and Harden was the focal point of that. The Beard looks playoff ready.

Spurs demolish Thunder to take Game 1 of second-round series

SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 30: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs scores over Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 30, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?

Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.

It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.

Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers

at Philips Arena on April 1, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.

Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.

Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.

The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.

Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.

Report: Warriors to replace Luke Walton from outside the organization

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 12: Interim Coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors talks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 12, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.

Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.

Report: Luke Walton’s Lakers contract is for 5 years, $25 million

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors leads the team against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 13, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 112-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.

This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.