Kurt Helin

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrates as he leaves the court during the final minute of the second half in an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Monday, April 11, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The Mavericks won 101-92. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Mavericks clinch playoff spot with 101-92 win over Jazz

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks clinched a Western Conference playoff spot for the third consecutive season and the 15th time in the last 16 years.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 22 and the Mavericks earned the No. 7 spot Monday with a 101-92 win over the Utah Jazz, leaving one remaining postseason slot.

The postseason is nothing new for the organization, but the team seemed to be in dire straits when it dropped 10 of 12 during a stretch in March and lost Chandler Parsons for the season after surgery on his right knee on March 25.

Dallas made a playoff push by winning seven of its last eight games.

“Well, it’s been a lot of work,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s been an amazing two weeks. Our guys looked like they were down and out, and we all dug in. Everyone dug in, especially the players, and we found a way to get into the playoffs.

“Tonight was game seven. That’s the way we approached it.”

Utah (40-41) lost control of its own destiny and needs to beat the Lakers on Wednesday and for the Rockets (40-41) to lose to the Kings. Houston holds the tiebreaker against the Jazz if they finish with the same record.

Dallas (42-39) rode its two biggest stars to victory as Nowitzki hit four 3-pointers and added 11 rebounds. Deron Williams scored 23 of his own against his former team.

“Coming in here, we knew it was going to be like a playoff atmosphere,” said William, who was booed throughout. “In a sense, (it) was a playoff game because there was so much at stake.

“(The boos) got me going out there a little bit. Not only the booing, but the stuff that was being said when I was sitting on the bench, at dead balls, stuff like that.”

Gordon Hayward finished with 26, but was 1 for 9 from 3-point range. The Jazz struggled to shoot the ball and were 2 for 18 from behind the arc in the second half.

“We just didn’t play that good,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I don’t think we made a perimeter shot until about five minutes left in the game. It just puts a lot of pressure on you.

“We talked about the last 20 games or so to try to be in a playoff race and find ourselves in this position. Unfortunately, Dallas was a better team tonight. We looked like a team that’s the youngest team in the league. And that’s what we are. This is a good experience for us. It hurts right now.”

The Mavs took a 50-46 lead into halftime after leading by as much as eight in the first half. The Jazz struggled to keep up with Nowitzki in the first quarter, in which he scored 10, and Williams in the second, when he scored 16.

“We just weren’t staying within the offense,” Jazz forward Derrick Favors said. “We missed a lot of shots that we normally make. (Rodney Hood) normally makes most of the shots he takes. It was just a tough offensive night for us.

“Wasn’t any nervousness. Just (missed) a lot of shots that we normally make.”

TIP-INS

Mavericks: Nowitzki hit four 3-pointers and now has 1,700 in his career to become the 15th player in NBA history with at least 1,700 career triples. … Nowitzki needs two made free throws to become the seventh player in NBA history – and the first 7-footer – with 7,000 career made free throws.

Jazz: Starting center Rudy Gobert hit the floor with when he rolled his right ankle fighting for a rebound. He immediately went to the locker room and did not return. He was on crutches and in a walking boot after the game. … Trey Lyles started his second consecutive game with Derrick Favors dealing with right knee soreness. Favors played but clearly wasn’t fully healthy.

SAAVY VETERANS

The Mavericks are the second most experienced team in the NBA and the Jazz are the least. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said before the game that helps his team. “Experience is valuable,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have been in a lot of playoff games and a lot of big regular season games. There were some things you can remind them of. But as the second-most experienced team in the league, I don’t think there’s a lot I need to say to them.”

 

How popular are Warriors? ESPN to show quest for 73, Kobe farewell bounced to ESPN2

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry celebrates a score during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday, April 3, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The Golden State Warriors are the hottest property in the NBA, one of the hottest in all of sports.

Their win Sunday in San Antonio — getting them a record-tying 72nd win — drew an average of 2.6 million viewers, the most ever in the history of NBA TV for any show. (I assumed The Starters had a larger audience than that, but maybe Skeets isn’t the sex symbol draw I imagined.)

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that ESPN has decided to put the Warriors quest for 73 wins Wednesday night against Memphis on the main mothership network. They are bumping Kobe Bryant‘s final game to ESPN2, the network has announced.

Kobe’s fans have always been blindly passionate and, as you would expect, this provoked some outrage on Twitter. (What doesn’t provoke outrage on Twitter?) This tweet seemed to sum up the sentiment.

Kobe essentially shrugged. Here are his comments, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“What the hell do I care?” Bryant said before resorting to sarcasm. “It hurt my feelings.”

What motivated ESPN’s move? Ratings. Nothing else.

ESPN is in the business of making money for the Walt Disney Corporation (just like NBC Sports does for Comcast). Their goal is to put things on your television that people want to watch. Right now, Stephen Curry and the Warriors are the hottest NBA property; they are a bigger draw than the 16-win Lakers regardless of Kobe’s status. Plus, there’s real drama with the Warriors because they could lose (the Grizzlies are banged up but did push them hard last game behind 24 points from Matt Barnes). With Kobe, it’s a ceremony, and while it’s an emotional one we know how the story ends.

Bottom line: There will be more eyeballs on Curry than Kobe Wednesday. ESPN made a business decision.

And Kobe fans, ESPN2 is just a button push away on your remote. You can find it.

Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, other ’96 Bulls congratulate Warriors on 72nd win

Chicago Fire - Season 3
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Steve Kerr wasn’t expecting a lot of positive vibes from his former 1995-96 Bulls teammates after his current team — the Golden State Warriors — tied their record of most wins ever in a season on Sunday. Here is what Kerr said postgame, via Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Kerr expects to hear from more of the Bulls now that the Warriors have tied the mark. He expects good friend Jud Buechler to call with congratulations and Luc Longley to call with a “snarky joke.”

As for the rest of the team: “Everybody else will just mutter expletives under their breaths.”

Maybe under their breath, but on twitter those Bulls recognized greatness when they saw it and tipped their caps.

Pippen has said he thought his Bulls team would sweep these Warriors and he could hold Stephen Curry under 20 points. What else would you expect him to say? Some of those Spurs feel like their identity is being challenged. The reality of that matchup is a lot would depend on whether they were using the 1996 or 2016 defensive rules, but it would be an interesting and entertaining series either way.

One that would be greatness vs. greatness.

Report: Phil Jackson considering David Blatt as possible next Knicks head coach

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt yells to players in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 109-97.(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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Derek Fisher was let go as the Knicks head coach in part because of his communication skills — players felt left in the dark at times, and Phil Jackson and Fisher were not communicating in the way you would hope a coach and GM would.

So they may ultimately replace him with… David Blatt?

Kurt Rambis is still the front-runner to keep the job he currently has on an interim basis. Much to the chagrin of Knicks fans (and with good reason). They are hoping for someone else, but that someone else was probably not Blatt. That said, he’s on the Knicks radar, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

One name that the Knicks are considering, according to league sources, is former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.

Jackson views Blatt favorably, according to sources. It’s also worth noting that Blatt played basketball with Knicks GM Steve Mills at Princeton… It wouldn’t be a surprise if Jackson considered other candidates outside of Blatt as well, though Rambis is still believed to be one of the top candidates.

Blatt knows the game and knows how to coach it, he won 67.5 percent of his games with the loaded Cavaliers’ roster. His problem in Cleveland was a combination of his ego and communication. He expected instant respect for all his time spent in the European and International game, and if he felt he wasn’t getting that he talked down to people — players, media, everyone. He didn’t earn that trust and respect, and when he didn’t seem to get it from LeBron James things got uncomfortable. The Cavaliers felt they needed to make a mid-season change despite a top-of-the-East record because of all of it.

Did Blatt learn his lessons from the Cavaliers experience? Would Carmelo Anthony be accepting (assuming he is still a Knick next fall)? The biggest knock against Blatt may be that he is not a triangle offense guy — his stuff is much more Princeton/motion, when he can get guys to buy in (which goes back to the ego/communication issues mentioned before). If Phil Jackson is committed to the triangle, Blatt is not his guy.

If Jackson is willing to let the triangle go, that would open up the door to a lot of good coaches currently looking for jobs. Although I find it hard to believe Jackson and Tom Thibodeau could work smoothly together.

Stephen Curry falls to ground when he learns of Jordan Spieth’s collapse at Masters (VIDEO)

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Jordan Spieth’s collapse at Masters — especially on the 12th hole, where he dropped it in the water twice — was hard to watch.

Stephen Curry is a golf fanatic, but he couldn’t watch the end of the Masters because of his day job. Andre Iguodala came out during warmups and told Curry about Spieth’s downfall.

Curry himself fell to the floor.

Curry recovered well enough to lead the Warriors to the 72nd win of the season by dropping 37 on the Spurs.