Spurs give the ball away first, then Game 2 to Dallas

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This time there would be no Spurs comeback.

In Game 1 of this series Dallas had a double-digit fourth quarter lead but surrendered it and lost. In Game 2 San Antonio had been shooting itself in the foot all night and Dallas had taken advantage and led by 11 entering the fourth quarter. But it didn’t feel safe.

Then the Mavericks opened the fourth quarter on an 11-1 run and the game became a rout, with Dallas eventually winning 113-92.

That evens the series at 1-1 as it heads back to Dallas for Game 3. This was the first win for the Mavs against the Spurs in their last 11 tries but it gives Dallas hope heading home.

Hope because for seven of the eight quarters in this series, Dallas has been the better team.

On Wednesday night mostly the Mavs won because the Spurs beat themselves.

San Antonio turned the ball over on 26.2 percent of their possessions — 15 turnovers in the first half and 22 for the game (that 15 was more than San Antonio had in half its games total this season). Dallas converted those turnovers into 33 points. If you’re a Dallas fan you can try to spin this as your team playing good defense — and Dallas has been better this series than they were during the season — but this Spurs team was just sloppy with the ball. It was very unSpurs-like.

When they didn’t cough it up the Spurs shot well — 57.6 percent for the first half and 50 percent for the game. Manu Ginobili finished with 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting, he was 5-of-6 from three and was a real spark when the Spurs went on a 10-0 run to close out the first half and make it close.

You just can’t add 22 extra empty possessions to any shooting percentage and do well.

We need to give the Mavericks some credit here, they were making plays — DeJuan Blair at one point stripped Ginobili, led the fast break, got into the lane, did a ball fake, spun 360 and hit a lay-up. It was that kind of the night for the Mavs.

Monta Ellis had 21 points (on 20 shots, though), Devin Harris had 18 on 7-of-9 shooting, and Shawn Marion had 20 points on 10 shots. Dirk Nowitzki was off his game, missing his first six shots and finishing with 16 points on 19 shots, but he hit a couple key ones late.

That Dallas won on an off night from their best player is a great sign.

That they beat the Spurs on the road and did it by beating the Spurs at their own game — smart execution, forcing mistakes then taking advantage of them — is another great sign.

This is a series, one where Dallas has been the better team for most of it. This is not a cake walk for the Spurs, this one may go a while now.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.

Maryland star Melo Trimble declares for NBA draft

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Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:

Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.

Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.

“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.

Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.

The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.

Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.