Dallas finally runs out of comebacks in Game 3 of the Finals

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The Mavericks have made a living off of big comebacks to get to this point in the postseason, but at some point, constantly fighting back from behind gets to be too much.

That point may have been reached in Game 3 of the Finals on Sunday, when Dallas, for the second consecutive game, erased all of a 14-point Miami lead in the second half, but couldn’t finish the job as the Heat held on for an 88-86 victory that put the Mavericks at a two games to one disadvantage in the series.

Instead of trailing big late and making a startling comeback as they did in Game 2, the Mavs were seemingly behind all night long, and had to make multiple runs to close the gaps.

“I really believe the fact that we were digging out of holes all night was something that, you know, it was difficult to overcome,” Rick Carlisle said afterward, in a press conference that was streamed live on NBA.com.

On this night, it proved to be impossible.

Dallas saw a seven-point deficit at the end of the first quarter increase to 12 early in the second. They cut it to five a few minutes later, and then Miami ran it up to 14, before Dallas shaved it down once again to five by halftime.

The Heat opened the second half on an 8-0 run to push it back to 13, before Dallas was finally able to take the lead with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Mavericks’ lead — the team’s first of the game since there was 3:28 to play in the first quarter — lasted exactly one possession, and was followed by back-to-back three-pointers from LeBron James and Mario Chalmers which quickly gave Miami yet another cushion.

The Heat’s lead reached as many as seven again in the final period before Dallas made its final run, and found itself down two with possession and 4.4 seconds remaining. Dirk Nowitzki got the ball as time was winding down, but went up for a tough fadeaway from 16 feet out that was heavily contested, and he threw it away trying to pass it off as time expired.

There’s no question that Dallas had its chances late, and in a game decided by just two points, there are a lot of things you can point to as reasons you came up short. But constantly having to battle back from behind all game long is physically and emotionally draining, and may have had a real effect on the missed open looks down the stretch.

“We can’t always fall down behind,” Nowitzki said. “I think we’re always reacting.  We did in the first quarter, we fell down big.  Third quarter we came out slow, fell down big.  Obviously it takes a lot of energy for us to fight back.

“We all understand that basketball is a game of runs.  We have to stop the runs a little quicker.  We can’t go down 15 all the time and battle back.  You can get like a five, six‑point swing here and there.  We can’t always get in a deep hole like that.”

As always, there are plenty of tangible reasons that the Mavericks lost Game 3. Dwyane Wade was spectacular for the second straight game, and he got plenty of help from James and Chris Bosh, as well as some critical minutes from Mario Chalmers off the bench. Meanwhile, Dallas struggled to get anywhere near efficient production from anyone not named Nowitzki. The only other two Mavericks in double figures, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, combined for 25 points, but needed 25 shots to get there.

Dallas has shown they can compete with Miami in this series. We can sit here and pick apart the Mavs’ woeful team offense beyond Dirk, and lament the fact that Wade and James got into the paint for easy opportunities seemingly at will, especially in the first half. But the bottom line is, it was a one-possession game in the final seconds, and the Mavs had the ball in the hands of their best player with a chance to tie or win the game at the buzzer.

I think if you told either team beforehand that’s how things would play out for them, they’d like their chances. The Mavericks have to like theirs as the series continues, but only if they can find a way to turn things around, and put the Heat on the wrong end of those early-game deficits.

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
Photo courtesy College Park Skyhawks
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.

Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley calls for NBA to put more politics into sports

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley
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Americans are increasingly inviting progressive politics into sports. Football players kneeling the national anthem are no longer an easy target. Even President Donald Trump has softened his tone on Colin Kaepernick.

So, some Republicans are pushing for MORE politics – their politics – in sports (sometimes under the guise of less politics in sports).

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, like Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, has criticized the NBA for its relationship with China. It’s grandstanding while the United States itself has a trade deal with China.

Now, Hawley is objecting to the NBA’s pre-approved list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys.

Hawley press release:

Today Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is sending a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blasting the league’s apparent decision to strictly limit messages players can wear on their jerseys to a few pre-approved, social justice slogans while censoring support for law enforcement officers or the military and any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Senator Hawley writes that, as the NBA is now sanctioning political messages, they must stand up for American values and make clear where they stand on China’s human rights abuses.

Senator Hawley writes, “The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor – much like the censorship decisions of the CCP – are themselves statements about your association’s values. If I am right – if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation – your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong. Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose. Give them the choice to write ‘Back the Blue’ on their jerseys. Or ‘Support our Troops.’ Maybe ‘God Bless America.’ What could be more American than that?”

OF COURSE the NBA was going to limit jersey messages to a pre-approved list. The league doesn’t want the pressure of censoring players’ individual choices. Nor does the league want to condone messages that would offend offend customers and jeopardize revenue. Support for Hong Kong protesters would definitely qualify as financially perilous.

The NBA – a business trying to make money – wants to support its employees and appeal to its audience. These relatively benign phrases accomplish those goals.

That doesn’t prevent NBA players from criticizing China. I take NBA commissioner Adam Silver at his word (especially after the Daryl Morey controversy) that the NBA endorses its employees right to speak out.

The NBA just isn’t going to allow players to give just any message through their jerseys.

Some players are understandably bothered by that limitation. But the biggest pushes for change aren’t going to come through multi-billion-dollar corporations. That’s just reality.

Likewise, though Hawley raises legitimate concerns about China’s treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kongers, scolding an American company for legally acting in its best financial interest is… um… certainly a choice for a U.S. Senator.

Also, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sent a profane two-word response in response to Hawley’s press release.

Wojnarowski:

NBA executive predicts every team will lose money next season

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The NBA is launching an unprecedented and ambitious operation – hosting the rest of its season in a centralized location with frequent testing – because that’s what’s necessary to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

What about next season?

Coronavirus will likely remain a danger on Dec. 1, when the league hopes to begin. That threatens fan attendance. Heck, that could undermine teams playing at all in their home markets. All 30 teams, rather than just 22, adds complications.

Even if the season gets off the ground, there will be financial issues.

Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

“The truth is, things are changing so fast that, when it comes to next season, the best we can do is put a stake in the ground and make a guess,” an Eastern Conference team president said. “The reality is nobody is probably going to operate in the black next season.

“The only question is how much each of us are going to lose.”

NBA owners love to cry poor. The actual math often reveals a different picture. There are complexities that teams can hide.

Some teams have already cut employees salaries. But some teams are also doing extravagant things like shipping their courts to Disney World for practice:

Still, NBA commissioner Adam Silver estimated 40% of league revenue comes from ticket sales and other game-day sources. If teams are ever believable about losing money, it’d be now. Coronavirus has wrecked so many sectors of the economy.

Revenue falling significantly would be felt by players, who – per the Collective Bargaining Agreement – receive about half of Basketball Related Income. (That 50-50 agreement supersedes players’ stated salaries in their contracts.)

It’s undecided how and when players would suffer those losses.

The 2020-21 salary cap could be reduced. But that would put the burden on players – free agents, draft picks – signing new contracts next offseason.

That’s why the salary cap is reportedly expected to remain roughly flat. There are a couple options within that scenario.

Players could have a larger share of their salaries withheld (as they’re doing this season). Then, at the end of the season, owners would return whatever money is necessary to reach the 50-50 split. However, that would reduce players’ spending power during the season.

Or players could collect their usual salaries with an artificially high salary cap. However, that would likely mean they get more than their entitled 50% share and the salary cap would be reduce in future seasons to offset. Current players – some of whom won’t be in the league in future years – would probably love that. Owners likely wouldn’t accept paying players more sooner.

Increased withholding from player salaries is probably the best option. But there’s plenty to decide about the exact withholding amount and how long the money is held. To ensure enough money is withheld, the percentage should initially be fairly high. Then, as the revenue picture becomes clearer, the withholding amount could decrease in future paychecks.

Of course, that assumes the league finds a safe way to play. Which is the biggest challenge.

Report: Wizards’ Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II test positive for coronavirus

Wizards players Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II
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Bradley Beal not playing sunk the Wizards’ for the NBA’s resumption, anyway.

If that and Davis Bertans sitting out weren’t enough, Washington is also without Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews.

Ava Wallace of The Washington Post:

The NBA announced 25 players tested positive from June 23-29. It’s unclear whether Bryant and Payton were among that group or additional positive cases.

It’s also unclear whether Bryant, Payton and Mathews will join the team at Disney World.

Bryant would be a particularly significant loss. His optimism and energy in tough situations are exactly what the Wizards need right now.

With the Nets severely shorthanded and the Magic looking uninspiring, Washington still has a path to the playoffs.