Jose Calderon vs. Tony Parker: This is the biggest mismatch of the series. Calderon, a subpar defender, struggles to guard a lot of point guards. He really gets exploited by Parker, who averaged 23.3 points on 54.2 percent shooting in three games against the Mavs this season. That was Parker's highest scoring average against any team he faced more than once this season. Parker loves pushing the pace and running pick-and-rolls, both of which present major problems for Calderon, whose plus-minus was minus-40 in the Mavs' four losses to the Spurs, including minus-25 in 86 minutes with Parker on the floor. If Calderon isn't lighting it up from long range, coach Rick Carlisle should seriously consider giving Devin Harris a bigger share of the minutes.
Monta Ellis vs. Danny Green: On paper, this is the Mavs' best matchup. It hasn't worked out that way on the floor, however. Green is a lethal 3-point shooter who has especially lit it up against the Mavs, going 12-of-20 from long distance against Dallas this season. The numbers indicate he has also done a good job defending Ellis, who has shot only 38.9 percent from the field when Green is in the game. The Mavs have been outscored by 60 points in the 81 minutes in which Ellis and Green have both been on the court. The Mavs probably wouldn't be in the playoffs without Ellis, a better fit than the Dallas front office believed even when they signed him to a three-year, $25 million deal. They'll need a huge series from Ellis -- who seems to thrive under pressure -- to have a chance to pull off a stunning upset over the Spurs.
Shawn Marion vs. Kawhi Leonard: Leonard looks a lot like a young Marion -- a freakish, 6-foot-7 athlete who is a versatile defender and efficient offensive weapon. That's an awfully tough matchup for the 35-year-old version of "The Matrix." Leonard gets overshadowed by the Spurs' living legends on the roster, but he's a 22-year-old rising star. His all-around skills were on full display during the Spurs' recent trip to Dallas, on which Leonard stuffed the box score for 16 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. By comparison, Marion had a total of 21 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in three games against San Antonio this season.
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Tim Duncan: The two all-time greats don't actually match up with each other much these days, but it will be a treat to watch a pair of surefire Hall of Famers compete in a playoff series for the sixth time in their careers. The 37-year-old Duncan's numbers have dipped in recent seasons, but that's primarily because the priority for him is being as fresh as possible for the playoffs. He's still a dominant defensive presence and capable of putting up a 20-point, 15-rebound line, the way he did in the Spurs' last win over the Mavs. Nowitzki, an All-Star again this season after a one-year, injury-related hiatus, remains one of the most distinct and effective offensive threats in the league. However, Nowitzki has averaged only 15.4 points against the Spurs in the past three seasons, during which San Antonio has won 10 of 12 meetings.
We all know it.
The Spurs had the NBA's best record, and they've beaten the Mavs nine straight times. And know this: They were ahead by at least 15 points in seven of those nine wins.
The Spurs have the NBA's best coach, and they don't have the kind of defensive lapses and mental miscues the Mavs have at the end of games that often turn near victories into close losses.
The beauty of sport is the Mavs get an opportunity to prove me wrong ... and you, too.
The Mavs were the first No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose to a No. 8 seed in a best-of-seven playoff series, when the Golden State Warriors beat them in 2007.
Wouldn't it be ironic if the Mavs could pull off a similar upset over the Spurs? Now don't go wager a River Walk dinner at Boudro's bistro over the series outcome or place a legal wager on the Mavs to win.
But as my dad often says, "There's a reason why you play the game."
He's talking about Texas Western's upset over Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA hoops title game. The New York Jets over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team over Soviet Union.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban considers the sale price of approximately $550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks to be a bargain, suggesting the true value of NBA franchises is north of $1 billion.
Longtime Bucks owner Herb Kohl announced Wednesday that he had reached an agreement to sell the team to hedge-fund billionaires Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, a deal subject to approval by the NBA and its board of governors.
"I think they got off cheap," Cuban said. "I think that was a bargain. I think it's worth a lot more. I think it's worth a lot more than that. I think someone got a bargain. You can't look backwards. You've got to look forward. You don't value teams based off what happened in the past."
In January, Forbes valued the Bucks at $405 million, the lowest among the NBA's 30 teams.
But Cuban, who paid a then-record $285 million for the Mavericks in 2000, believes the NBA is in the midst of a business boom. Asked whether the league should consider adding an expansion team, Cuban said he would be on board, as long as the price was steep.
"I'm not opposed to it," Cuban said. "This is just me talking, but we'd be crazy to sell it for under a billion dollars."
After that comment, Cuban grinned and did a Dr. Evil impersonation, sticking the tip of his pinkie finger in the corner of his mouth. However, he's completely serious about the subject.
"Let's just say I'm bullish on the NBA," Cuban said. "Call it the NBAIX, the NBA index. I think it's underpriced right now. I'd invest money in that ETF."
According to Forbes, the New York Knicks
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The battle for seventh place in the Western Conference went down to the wire, with five extra minutes needed to decide the fight between the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
Monta Ellis' wide-open 18-footer at the buzzer bounced off the back iron and off the rim, sending yellow and gold streamers down from the FedExForum ceiling and sentencing the Mavs to a first-round series against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
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This time, however, the home team celebrated once the buzzer sounded.
Ellis missed a wide-open 18-footer in the final second of overtime, landing the Dallas Mavericks in the West's 8-seed after a 106-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Mavs ran the same play as they did when Ellis drilled a buzzer-beater to beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 7, just from the opposite sideline.
Once again, Ellis came off a pick and got wide open in the middle of the floor. It was the shot the Mavs wanted by the hot hand they hoped could win the game for them after Ellis had drilled a clutch 3 to tie it with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, then scored seven points in the extra frame.
"It was a great shot," Ellis said. "It just didn’t go down."
That came as quite a surprise to Ellis, who never lacks for confidence. That was quite clear by the way he knocked down that 3 from the right wing to tie it up late in regulation.
Up to that point, Ellis had a horrible shooting night, missing 11 of his first 15 field goal attempts. But a short-term memory is required for any player who embraces the responsibility of taking clutch shots.
That description definitely fits Ellis, whose 151 clutch points (defined as coming in the final five minutes, score within five points) ranked behind only MVP front-runner Kevin Durant and LeBron James this season.
"Hey, he’s an attacker," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I encourage all our guys to stay process-oriented, stay aggressive, step into shots that are there. He had a lot of good shots that were near-misses that were just in and out. The last one’s a great example."
After Ellis drilled the tying 3 late in regulation, he got hot in overtime, taking over the game for a stretch to help the Mavs build a four-point lead. Within a span of 109 seconds, Ellis hit a long 2, another 3 from the right wing and a driving layup.
But Ellis missed his last two shots in the final seven seconds, much to the surprise of the Mavs, particularly on the wide-open buzzer-beater.
"The way he’d been shooting it, I really thought it was going to go in," Carlisle said. "He played with such courage in the fourth quarter. I doubt we’d be in the position we were in with a chance to win it if it hadn’t [been] for him. He’s just got to keep hoisting those up, because he’s going to make more than he misses."
The protected first-round pick the Mavs gave up in the trade, which has since been shipped from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder, is officially OKC’s property in this draft.
The pick was top-20 protected through 2017, so the Mavs had to finish with one of the NBA’s top 10 records to unload the pick this season. With the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls both losing their regular-season finales, the 49-33 Mavs have the league’s 10th-best record, giving the pick to Oklahoma City.
Had the Bulls or Raptors won, there would have been a random drawing to break the tie with the Mavs and determine the draft order. If the Mavs won the drawing, they wouldn’t have lost the pick this year.
It was the Mavs’ preference to part with the pick this season.
“I’d rather just get it over with,” owner Mark Cuban said before the Mavs’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. “I’m fine just getting it out of the way so it’s no longer over our head or an issue.”
The Mavs owing Oklahoma City a protected pick prevented Dallas from discussing giving up future first-round picks in trade talks. An NBA rule prevent teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years, so the earliest first-rounder the Mavs can deal now would be their 2016 pick.
Dirk Nowitzki especially needs it.
The Mavs’ 35-year-old star played a season-high 46 minutes in Wednesday’s 106-105 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, a rugged game that decided the order of the West’s last two playoff seeds. Nowitzki played every second of the fourth quarter and overtime despite bruising his right knee in the first half when he banged it against Memphis center Marc Gasol’s bulky knee brace.
“It’s just a bruise,” said Nowitzki, who scored 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting in the loss. “Gasol is wearing that huge brace, and I ran into it like four times, I think. We’ve got plenty of time until Sunday, obviously. I’ll take it easy tomorrow and get ready to play Sunday.”
Nowitzki wore a rubber knee brace in the second half, saying he just wanted something to protect the knee if he banged it again. He said the knee didn’t bother him much after halftime.
“Hey, this guy’s a machine,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He don’t come out of games unless there’s something really wrong. I’ve never seen a guy as resilient as him when it comes to those kinds of things with injuries. It’s another reason he’s one of the all-time greats.”
MEMPHIS -- The NBA announced the schedule for the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series, which starts at noon Sunday at the AT&T Center.
Game 1: Dallas at San Antonio, noon, Sunday, April 20
Game 2: Dallas at San Antonio, 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 23
Game 3: San Antonio at Dallas, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 26
Game 4: San Antonio at Dallas, 8:30 p.m., Monday, April 28
Game 5 (if necessary): Dallas at San Antonio, TBD, Wednesday, April 30
Game 6 (if necessary): San Antonio at Dallas, TBD, Friday, May 2
Game 7 (if necessary): Dallas at San Antonio, TBD, Sunday, May 4
Our 5-on-5 crew breaks down the first-round matchup between the Spurs and Mavericks:
1. What's the scariest thing -- good or bad -- about the Spurs?
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: They have yet to play to their full potential. Nearly every key player on the Spurs was hampered by injuries at some point this season, and they still walked away with the best record in the league. They're now at full strength.
Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas.com: Other than Pop interviews? The Spurs are the best team in basketball, with the emphasis on team. Their excellence is rooted in great execution on both ends of the floor. San Antonio has talent, with the best power forward to ever play the game (Tim Duncan), one of the premier point guards of his generation (Tony Parker), an all-time elite sixth man (Manu Ginobili), a rising all-around star (Kawhi Leonard) and several quality role players. But the Spurs' whole is greater than the sum of their parts.
Aaron McGuire, TrueHoop Network: Kawhi Leonard. Scary can mean many things -- fearsome, dangerous, reminiscent of "The Busy World of Richard Scarry." Leonard hits all three, combining San Antonio's scariest defender with their hardest-to-game-plan-against offensive contributor. He snags the offensive boards nobody else in San Antonio battles for. He's a rare wing player that can completely take over a game without scoring in bunches.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.