Dallas Mavericks: Manu Ginobili

Nowitzki, Terry, HowardGetty ImagesThe Mavs' trio with the most playoff wins: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Josh Howard with 28.
Tim Duncan has earned the right to be recognized as the premier power forward in NBA history, but he’s also had the good fortune of being flanked by a couple of fellow future Hall of Famers for most of his career.

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Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker made NBA history with the Spurs’ Game 1 win over the Thunder in the West finals Monday night. It was their 110th playoff win together, matching the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper for the most ever by a trio.

When Dirk Nowitzki’s career is done, he might wonder what would have been if he’d enjoyed such continuity with co-stars.

Nowitzki’s tenure as part of a big three was too brief, broken up by the time he was 26 because Mavericks management believed that Steve Nash was too brittle to reward with a big contract. Nowitzki, Nash and Michael Finley restored respectability to the franchise, but that trio won only 18 playoff games together.

The Mavs’ trio with the most playoff wins: Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Josh Howard with 28. That’s followed by Nowitzki, Terry and the immortal Erick Dampier with 25, and Nowitzki, Terry and Jason Kidd with 24.
DALLAS -- Nothing makes Dallas Mavericks fans groan like seeing the San Antonio Spurs flop.

Manu Ginobili is a master of it. Tony Parker is pretty darn good, too. And Tiago Splitter certainly shows promise.

Not that the Mavs are completely innocent. Vince Carter had a flop in Game 6 that was Oscar-worthy. But the Spurs have done enough flopping in this series to make a full feature film.

Well, they've at least flopped enough for one bitter Mavs fan to make a three-minute lowlight reel and send it to ESPNDallas.com.

DALLAS – Before the sixth Mavericks-Spurs series started, Dirk Nowitzki took a trip down memory lane with ESPNDallas.com.

Nowitzki reflected on each Mavs-Spurs playoff meeting, going into great detail. You can read the whole post here, but his recollection of the 2006 Western Conference semis is especially interesting with the Mavs trying to repeat history by winning a Game 7 in San Antonio.

“Maybe the best over the course of seven games, the best series I’ve had in my career.

“Just felt locked in, felt in my prime and felt whatever coverage they’re doing, I can score on it. That’s how confident I was. What a great series.

[+] EnlargeNowitzki
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki called his overtime-forcing and-1 in Game 7 of the 2006 West semifinals one of the biggest plays of his career.
“We win both home games here and went up 3-1, but that’s just how good they are. They just keep coming. They win down there and it’s 3-2. We try to close out here, and they just keep coming. They make it 3-3. Jet [Jason Terry] was suspended for one of those games for a little [groin] clip, so that was tough.

“Then we go down there for Game 7 and it’s one of the greatest games I remember. We were rolling early. We were up 20 in the first half. Just everything goes -- Josh [Howard], Jet, Devin [Harris] driving, I was shooting it -- so it was great. Avery [Johnson] was like, ‘Hey, those boys are going to keep playing.’ Sure enough, it was almost methodically. They always come back. They get stops, they keep grinding and next thing you know ...

“I always remember Jet leaving [Manu] Ginobili on the wing when [Tim] Duncan was posting up on me, and he pulled the trigger. I looked when it was in the air -- boom! Bottoms! The place went absolutely nuts.

“Down three and I remember we had [32.9 seconds left], and I was thinking we were kind of in a similar situation in Game 6. We were down three and I shot a bad 3. I was thinking to myself and Avery even said it: ‘In this situation, don’t hoist a bad 3. Make sure you get to the basket. Anything can happen.’

“So I just spun and put my head down on [Bruce] Bowen and said, ‘I’m going to lay this in.’ We can foul again and at least extend the game. And Ginobili just left [Jerry Stackhouse] in the corner and came over and wanted to block it. I was able to kind of luckily muscle it over a little bit. It hit the rim and bounced in. That was probably one of the biggest plays of my career. Made the free throw.

“I don’t think I scored again in overtime. (He actually hit two free throws to put the Mavs up eight with 9.9 seconds left, giving him 37 points for the game.) The boys were great. We subbed in Gana [Diop] and he made some big stops on Duncan. He had one or two big offensive rebounds. Stack made two pull-ups, I remember.

“Yeah, that was a fun game, fun series for me. I mean, to win a Game 7 in that building is about as sweet as it gets in this league.”
Shawn MarionJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsShawn Marion's defensive versatility has been on full display in this series against the Spurs.
DALLAS -- This might be the last night that Shawn Marion wears a Dallas Mavericks uniform.

Not that he’s sentimental about the situation entering the must-win Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs.

“I’m not looking at that right now,” said Marion, whose five-year contract expires this summer. “We’ll talk about that when it’s done.”

Regardless of when it ends, Marion’s tenure with the Mavs is worth celebrating.

When he arrived in Dallas in the summer of 2009, many considered him a former star on the decline, as he was coming off brief, unsatisfying stints in Miami and Toronto following his glory days in Phoenix. “The Matrix,” a four-time All-Star whose scoring average soared as high as 21.8 points per game with the Suns one season, redefined himself as a great role player in Dallas.

Dallas doesn’t win the 2011 championship without Marion’s sensational work as a defensive stopper against a parade of superstars including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The fact that Marion has never been named to an All-Defensive team is met with great dismay within the Mavs organization, which lobbied for him to be Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.

(Read full post)

Dirk NowitzkiJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAmong key players in the Mavs-Spurs series, Dirk Nowitzki is the one who's yet to leave his mark.

DALLAS -- Several players in the Mavericks-Spurs series have Hall of Fame résumés and, one by one, they’ve flashed the greatness that should grant them basketball immortality in Springfield, Massachusetts.

With one exception.

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We’re still waiting for that great game, or even that great moment, from Dirk Nowitzki after the teams split their four contests.

Tim Duncan, widely considered the premier power forward in NBA history, dominated during the series opener. He scored 27 points, a third of which came during the fourth quarter, in the Spurs’ Game 1 win -- during which San Antonio fought back from a 10-point deficit.

Spurs point guard Tony Parker, a three-time champion and six-time All-Star, also delivered on Easter Sunday. He had 21 points and six assists in San Antonio’s first victory.

San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, another three-time champ and arguably the best sixth man ever to fill that role, was the Spurs’ only real bright spot in Game 2 (27 points) and starred in their Game 4 win, scoring 23 points and dishing out five assists.

Ginobili would have been the Game 3 hero if Mavs sixth man Vince Carter, the No. 25 scorer in NBA history and an eight-time All-Star, had not one-upped him. Coming just 1.7 ticks after Ginobili’s go-ahead runner, Carter's buzzer-beating 3 from the deep-left corner is the series’ most memorable moment so far.

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Marion up for Manu challenge

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
10:13
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DALLAS -- It has been a series of picking your poison for the Dallas Mavericks.

Their insistence on switching on pick-and-rolls has opened the door for San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to get theirs on offense. Making matters worse, Manu Ginobili, the final component to the Spurs' big three, has gone off as he scored a total of 62 points on 50 percent shooting over their last three games.

Spurs
Danny Bollinger/NBAE/Getty ImagesManu Ginobili has scored 62 points on 50 percent shooting during the last three games.
Ginobili's relentless attack off pick-and-rolls has stymied Dallas' defensive disposition. The Mavs are mindful and fearful of his ability to pass to the open teammate. His aggression has put Dallas on its heels much in the way the Mavs were when San Antonio imposed its will over Dallas in the previous matchups prior to this series.

"I thought most of his points came in the first half, I’ve got to admit," Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "In the second half I thought we did a better job, keeping him away from the rim a little better. We just had a bad second quarter. He was very good there. I thought in the second half, I thought we did a decent job on him.”

Nowitzki was right as Ginobili did his damange early on in Game 4 as he drove through the heart of Dallas' defense, scoring 15 of his 23 points in the first two quarters.

If the Mavs were able to slow Ginobili down in the second half, what led to that change?

(Read full post)

DALLAS -- The sixth playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs feels like the good ol’ days to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, or at least it did when he was giddy after a thrilling Game 3 win.

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"It felt like 2006 in that war that we fought down there," Cuban said, referring to the classic West semifinals that the Mavs won with a Game 7 victory in San Antonio.

Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki, one of five players to play in both series, isn’t so sure about that.

"I don’t feel like I did in 2006," Nowitzki said, half-joking about his advanced age. "But it’s a fun, fun playoff atmosphere, battling with that team that’s been through so many playoff battles. That’s really all. I’m not really thinking about eight years ago. I’m living in the moment."

We’ll all live in the moment when Game 4 tips off Monday night. For a moment, though, let’s look back at the past and see the similarities between these two Mavs-Spurs series through three games.

GAME 1
2006 -- Spurs 87, Mavs 85: Tim Duncan dominated, putting up 31 points and 13 rebounds as the Mavs played single coverage against him the vast majority of the night. Nowitzki had an off night, scoring 20 points but going only 8-of-20 from the floor while being harassed by Bruce Bowen. The Mavs couldn’t close out the Spurs because of a crunch-time offensive drought, going the final 4:07 without a field goal in a game that ended with Jerry Stackhouse air-balling a contested 3-point attempt.

2014 -- Spurs 90, Mavs 85: Duncan dominated, putting up 27 points as the Mavs played single coverage against him the vast majority of the night. Nowitzki had an off night, scoring 11 points and going 4-of-14 from the floor while being harassed by Tiago Splitter. The Mavs couldn’t close out the Spurs because of a crunch-time offensive drought, going 7:44 without a field goal in a game that ended with a meaningless layup by Devin Harris.

[+] EnlargeDevin Harris
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty ImagesNow in his second stint with the Mavs, Devin Harris is turning back the clock to replicate his impact on the 2006 series.
GAME 2
2006 -- Mavs 113, Spurs 91: Harris played a huge role in the Mavs evening the series, scoring 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting after being inserted into the starting lineup. Duncan had another big night with 28 points, but the other two members of the Spurs’ Big Three were nonfactors. The AT&T Center crowd was dismayed by all the whistle-blowing, with the Mavs getting 35 points off 43 free throws in the Spurs' biggest home playoff loss since Game 1 of the 1996 West semifinals.

2014 -- Mavs 113, Spurs 92: Harris played a huge role in the Mavs evening the series, scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting off the bench. Manu Ginobili had a big night with 27 points, but the other two members of the Spurs’ Big Three were nonfactors. The AT&T Center crowd was dismayed by the Spurs' sloppiness, with the Mavs getting 33 points off 24 turnovers in the Spurs' biggest home playoff loss since Game 2 of the 2006 West semifinals.

GAME 3
2006 -- Mavs 104, Spurs 103: The Mavs seized control of the series with a one-point home win, pulling out the victory after a wild fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands several times. The game was decided by mistakes in the final moments, the most costly being a Ginobili turnover with two seconds remaining. The superstars -- Duncan (35 points, 12 rebounds) and Nowitzki (27 points, 15 rebounds) -- both had big games.

2014 -- Mavs 109, Spurs 108: The Mavs seized control of the series with a one-point home win, pulling out the victory after a wild fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands several times. The game was decided by spectacular shots in the final moments, with Vince Carter’s corner 3 at the buzzer one-upping Ginobili’s lefty runner 1.7 seconds earlier. The sidekicks -- Tony Parker (19 points, six assists) and Monta Ellis (29 points) -- both had big games.

Rapid Reaction: Spurs 90, Mavs 85

April, 20, 2014
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2:38
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SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs slammed the door on the Dallas Mavericks’ Game 1 upset bid, as the West’s top seed dominated down the stretch of a 90-85 win.

How it happened: The Mavs became a mess after building a double-digit lead.

After Brandan Wright’s and-1 free throw put the Mavs up 10 points with 7:45 remaining, the Spurs locked down defensively, holding Dallas scoreless for the next five minutes, 40 seconds. San Antonio seized the lead for good by scoring 15 points during that span, including seven by future Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan.

Dallas didn’t score again from the floor after Wright’s bucket until Devin Harris’ meaningless layup with one-tenth of a second on the clock.

It was a sensational outing for Duncan, other than a scare when he banged knees with Mavs guard Monta Ellis during the third quarter, sidelining him briefly. Duncan scored a game-high 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs’ future Hall of Fame power forward, couldn’t come close to matching his longtime foe. Nowitzki never got in a groove, scoring only 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

After a slow start, the Mavs got a big boost from their bench, which scored 46 points. Harris had 13 of his team-high 19 points in the first half.

However, the Spurs got big games from the foundation of their last few championship teams. Tony Parker (21 points, six assists) and Manu Ginobili (17 points) served as sensational complements to Duncan.

What it means: The Spurs took a 1-0 series lead, extending their overall winning streak against the Mavs to 10 games. Dallas still hasn’t won a playoff game since clinching the 2011 championship in Miami.

Play of the game: After Nowitzki missed a wide-open layup, Duncan grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Parker to spark a one-man fast break. Parker spun past Harris in the lane and finished with a right-handed layup to give the Spurs the lead with 3:25 to go.

Stat of the day: Ellis’ plus-minus was minus-23 in 36 minutes.

Dirk goes down Mavs-Spurs memory lane

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
2:45
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Tim Duncan, Dirk NowitzkiAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThis marks the sixth time that Dirk Nowitzki has faced off against the Spurs in a playoff series.
DALLAS -- They meet again.

This will make a half-dozen times Dirk Nowitzki has seen the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. He’s felt some agony and some ecstasy in the previous five series against the Mavericks’ Interstate 35 rival, a four-time title-winning franchise that served as a roadblock on Dallas’ route through the West for years.

They are unforgettable highs and lows from those series from the Spurs, memories that are engrained in the minds of Mavs fans, as well as the face of the franchise.

This is how Nowitzki remembers those Mavs-Spurs series, as shared with ESPNDallas.com a day before he departs to start another series in San Antonio:

2001
Series: West semifinals
Outcome: Spurs in five
Nowitzki’s numbers: 23.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 44.6 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “We had no chance.

“We had just beaten Utah in the first round after being down 0-2. I remember when [Karl] Malone missed that last shot in Game 5, we were running around on the court like we won the championship. I mean, it was insane. I was lapping around the arena like twice. It was insane. So just for us to beat those guys, that’s how much respect we had for Utah and Malone and [John] Stockton.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan
Tom Hauck/AllsportDirk Nowitzki says the Mavs had no chance against Tim Duncan and the Spurs in their 2001 series.
“Then it was hard. It was for a young team to turn around and play against those machines. [Tim] Duncan was obviously so good back in those days, so we really had no shot.

“We lost the first two down there. I remember we went straight from Utah to San Antonio for the first one. It was pretty much over with. The second one, we were kind of around, but not really. And if you want to make a series of it, you’ve got to win Game 3. I remember I was sick. I had food poisoning that game, and then we’re down 0-3. That was basically it.

“We played hard in Game 4 and were able to steal one. The game we stole here, I came back in [after getting a tooth knocked out by a Terry Porter elbow] and we won the game. Then in Game 5, they were just so good defensively. Whatever we tried, they had counters. They were long in there with those two 7-footers. I mean, they were good.”

2003
Series: West finals
Outcome: Spurs in six
Nowitzki’s numbers: 25.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 43.1 FG% in three games

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “I remember we stole Game 1, which was amazing. We were 49-of-50 from the free throw line. That was an amazing, amazing game for us. Game 2, we lost and then here in Game 3 is a big game. Obviously, you want to hold home court, and that’s the game I got hurt.

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“It was tough. I wanted to play and I was testing [his sprained knee]. It felt OK with the adrenaline going.

“But looking back on my career now, it probably was the right decision. Nellie didn’t want me to play. I was young at the time. At this stage of my career, it probably would have made sense to play. I’m old, but then, even I felt it sometimes getting up in timeouts and stuff. It just wasn’t right, just didn’t feel right. Probably looking back on it now, it was the right decision, but it was tough.

“We go down there [for Game 5] and we’re thinking they might close us out. We steal that game. It’s 3-2 and we have a chance here to force Game 7. We were up [13] in the fourth.

“Nellie played small ball. We played Walt Williams at the 4 and just spread it out and let Nick [Van Exel] and Steve [Nash] drive, and it worked great. Then they subbed in Steve Kerr and he made like three or four 3s in that fourth quarter. They came back, and that was that.

“I don’t know, I might have tried to play in Game 7. You never know, but that was disappointing.”

2006
Series: West semifinals
Outcome: Mavs in seven
Nowitzki’s numbers: 27.1 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 52.7 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “Maybe the best over the course of seven games, the best series I’ve had in my career.

“Just felt locked in, felt in my prime and felt whatever coverage they’re doing, I can score on it. That’s how confident I was. What a great series.

“We win both home games here and went up 3-1, but that’s just how good they are. They just keep coming. They win down there and it’s 3-2. We try to close out here, and they just keep coming. They make it 3-3. Jet [Jason Terry] was suspended for one of those games for a little [groin] clip, so that was tough.

[+] EnlargeNowitzki
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki called his overtime-forcing and-1 in Game 7 of the 2006 West semifinals one of the biggest plays of his career.
“Then we go down there for Game 7 and it’s one of the greatest games I remember. We were rolling early. We were up 20 in the first half. Just everything goes -- Josh [Howard], Jet, Devin [Harris] driving, I was shooting it -- so it was great. Avery [Johnson] was like, ‘Hey, those boys are going to keep playing.’ Sure enough, it was almost methodically. They always come back. They get stops, the keep grinding and next thing you know ...

“I always remember Jet leaving Ginobili on the wing when Duncan was posting up on me, and he pulled the trigger. I looked when it was in the air -- boom! Bottoms! The place went absolutely nuts.

“Down three and I remember we had [32.9 seconds left], and I was thinking we were kind of in a similar situation in Game 6. We were down three and I shot a bad 3. I was thinking to myself and Avery even said it: ‘In this situation, don’t hoist a bad 3. Make sure you get to the basket. Anything can happen.’

“So I just spun and put my head down on [Bruce] Bowen and said, ‘I’m going to lay this in.’ We can foul again and at least extend the game. And Ginobili just left [Jerry Stackhouse] in the corner and came over and wanted to block it. I was able to kind of luckily muscle it over a little bit. It hit the rim and bounced in. That was probably one of the biggest plays of my career. Made the free throw.

“I don’t think I scored again in overtime. [He actually hit two free throws to put the Mavs up eight with 9.9 seconds left, giving him 37 points for the game.] The boys were great. We subbed in Gana [Diop] and he made some big stops on Duncan. He had one or two big offensive rebounds. Stack made two pull-ups, I remember.

“Yeah, that was a fun game, fun series for me. I mean, to win a Game 7 in that building is about as sweet as it gets in this league.”

2009
Series: West first round
Outcome: Mavs in five
Nowitzki’s numbers: 19.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, .493 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “Ginobili was hurt and they really never had enough weapons to beat us that year. I don’t think they had enough weapons without him.

“We tried to take Duncan and [Tony] Parker out as much as we could, and it worked really well. With them without Ginobili, it made it a little easier.”

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Mavs were the No. 2 seed in 2010 but fell to the No. 7 Spurs.
2010
Series: West first round
Outcome: Spurs in six
Nowitzki’s numbers: 26.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 54.7 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “It was a little messed up, because we’d just traded for Caron [Butler] and DeShawn [Stevenson] and [Brendan] Haywood and we were actually the No. 2 seed. They played without Ginobili most of the season, and right at the right time he gets healthy. They’re the 7 seed, we’re the 2 seed.

“That’s obviously a tough matchup for any 2 seed, to run into the Spurs healthy at the right time.

“We made some mistakes, but they were good. They were healthy at the right time.

“We wanted to win and force it here and at least force it to a Game 7. I remember we were so good on the road after we traded for these guys, and we just needed to win one road game. We lost all three games down there and that ultimately sealed it. They stole Game 2 up here and we figured we’ve got three chances to steal a game down there, because we’re pretty good on the road. They won all three down there, and that’s what ultimately lost us that series.”

Matchups: Who has edge in Mavs-Spurs?

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
8:00
AM CT
A look at the matchups in the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series:

POINT GUARD
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.
EDGE: Spurs

[+] EnlargeMonta Ellis
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Mavericks probably wouldn't be in the playoffs without Monta Ellis, who gives them the edge at shooting guard.
SHOOTING GUARD
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.
EDGE: Mavs

SMALL FORWARD
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.
EDGE: Spurs

POWER FORWARD
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.
EDGE: Even

(Read full post)

Can Carter build Sixth Man of Year case?

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
11:20
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DALLAS -- Want a sleeper candidate for Sixth Man of the Year? Take a look at the Dallas Mavericks’ old man.

If 37-year-old Vince Carter’s February foreshadows the rest of his regular season, the 1998-99 Rookie of the Year and eight-time All-Star should be considered for the award that recognizes the league’s most impactful reserve.

After all, the race is wide open if the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford ends up ineligible for the award because he plays more games as a starter than he does coming off the bench.

[+] EnlargeVince Carter
John Rhodes/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty ImageVince Carter followed a season-high, 23-point outing Monday in New York with a 17-point effort against the Pelicans on Wednesday.
The next leading bench scorers -- the Lakers’ Nick Young, Utah’s Alec Burks, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters and Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey -- are putting up numbers on poor teams.

Despite Carter’s slow start to the season, a case can be made that his name be included on a list of candidates, along with Phoenix’s Markieff Morris, Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson, Chicago’s Taj Gibson, Houston's Jeremy Lin and San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili.

His case will be stronger if the Mavs, who stand in sixth place in the Western Conference at the moment, keep winning.

“I’ll leave it to you guys to push that for me,” Carter said, chatting with a few reporters after scoring 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes during Wednesday’s 108-89 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. That all came on the heels of his season-high 23-point performance in Monday's win against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Carter has got a deal, as long as he holds up his end of the bargain.

He has to keep producing and contributing to the Mavs’ success like he has this month, when Carter has averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists during an 11-3 run by Dallas.

The Mavs have outscored opponents by an average of 8.7 points per game with Carter on the floor during that stretch. That gives Carter, who has flourished since a healthy Brandan Wright and Devin Harris were added to the Mavs’ bench, a plus-minus that’s the best on the team by almost two points per night during the team’s hot streak.

“Vince has been looking great,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Really just coming in being instant offense, like he was last year, when he was probably our best player all season. Just having great rhythm.

“He’s been playing well, and you know we need him to score. He’s a playmaker for us, not only a shot-maker. We want him to run screen-and-rolls. We post him. He makes plays for other out of the pick-and-rolls, gets other guys open. We rely on him a lot, and he knows that. He’s been great.”

Can “Old Man, Occasionally Amazing” sustain that level of play?

“I can handle that,” said Carter, who replaced Jason Terry as the Mavs’ sixth man and embraced the role before last season. “I can do that. No problem, I can do that. I feel comfortable.

“When I get in the game, I know what’s expected of me, and I think more than anything, our chemistry is what’s elevating everyone’s game. It can happen.”

If Carter keeps rolling, he might have a Sixth Man of the Year case. And the Mavs will have a playoff berth.

Mavs must improve to rekindle Spurs rivalry

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
12:10
AM CT
DALLAS -- For years, the close proximity near the top of the Western Conference standings and on the map made the rivalry between the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks one of the most intense in the NBA.

The teams are still separated by less than 300 miles of Texas highway. The Mavs, however, have fallen off the map as far as being legitimate contenders, while the Spurs keep on keeping on.

As a result, the flames of this rivalry don’t burn nearly as bright as they did for more than a decade.

[+] EnlargeTony Parker, Vince Carter
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesTony Parker and the Spurs clearly have the upper hand in their rivalry with the Mavericks, who fell to San Antonio for the sixth straight time Thursday.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban half-kiddingly takes credit for the cleaner version of the River Walk that flows through downtown San Antonio these days. (He’s always been a villain in the Alamo City for his classic trash-talking take on the dirtiness of the tourist attraction during one of several Mavs-Spurs playoff series.) But it’s the Mavs who have much work to do if the rivalry is going to be restored.

That’s a truth that Cuban, one of the few faces left in Dallas from the rivalry's glory days, can’t deny.

“But it doesn’t mean we don’t want to beat them up and beat them just as badly,” Cuban said.

The Mavs just haven’t satisfied that desire in quite some time. The Spurs’ 116-107 win Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd sprinkled with a lot of black and silver was San Antonio’s sixth straight victory over Dallas.

The Spurs (23-7) are well on their way to the franchise’s NBA-record 15th consecutive 50-win season. Fresh off their fifth finals appearance during the Tim Duncan era, San Antonio is likely to be in the mix for the West’s top seeds again.

That means the Spurs might face the Mavs (16-13) in the playoffs if Dallas, fresh off its dozen-year playoff streak ending and two years removed from its 50-win streak being snapped at 11 seasons, can fight its way into one of the West’s final seeds. That would be the sixth playoff meeting between the teams during the careers of Dirk Nowitzki and Duncan, two of the premier power forwards of all time, and a step toward rekindling the rivalry.

“Obviously, after the championship, we had two rough years,” said Nowitzki, whose and-1 drive in Game 7 to force overtime in San Antonio during Dallas’ march to the 2006 Finals is one of the most memorable moments in Mavs’ history. “That already by itself is not the rivalry that it used to be, where both teams won 50 games plus every year.

“We’d love to go back there. We feel like we had a better team the last two years. It’s tough. We’re letting some games slip away here and there. It’s going to hurt our playoff chances, but I still think we have more than enough to make the push at the playoffs.”

The Spurs, on the other hand, have a roster that’s been proven through many playoff battles. While the Mavs stripped down their aging roster after the 2011 title run, the Spurs’ core of 17-year veteran Duncan, 13-year veteran Tony Parker and 12-year veteran Manu Ginobili keeps rolling, complemented by a supporting cast headlined by blossoming, do-it-all star Kawhi Leonard.

That continuity was apparent down the stretch Thursday night, as the Spurs pulled away after Dallas sliced a 15-point deficit to three. The Mavs, a defensively flawed team, simply couldn’t get the stops necessary to beat an elite outfit.

Right now, the Mavs-Spurs rivalry resides only in memories of fan bases that got to witness historically great runs for each franchise. The Spurs’ run hasn’t stopped. The Mavs are working to get another started.

Dirk Isn't Done: 'Big Fundamental' way of thinking

June, 2, 2013
6/02/13
11:30
PM CT
As Dirk Nowitzki heads into his 16th season, he's coming off his lowest points per game average since his first full year, saw a dip in rebounding and health is now becoming a factor. ESPNDallas.com will explain five reasons why it’s too soon to say Dirk’s demise as an elite player has arrived.

A big man in his mid-to-late 30s will continue his pursuit towards another NBA championship. And no, it's not Dirk Nowitzki. Tim Duncan is showing that an older big man can still dominate the game as the 37-year-old has averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 34.4 minutes during the Western Conference playoffs. Those numbers are hovering right around Duncan’s season average, which is why he earned first team All-NBA honors.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan
AP Photo/Eric GayAt age 37, Spurs center Tim Duncan was named to the All-NBA first team and is averaging 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 34.4 minutes during the Western Conference playoffs.
Duncan provides an example of a prolific big man who has dealt with injuries but has been able to sustain a level of excellence over a sustained period of time. When you look at the comparison, it suggests that Nowitzki still can have plenty left in the tank if he follows a path similar to his San Antonio counterpart. At 76 games, Duncan has actually played nearly one season’s worth of basketball more than Nowitzki when it comes to playoff basketball. And he's three years older than Nowitzki.

Both Duncan and Nowitzki are gym rats who have taken care of their bodies through proper nutrition, have slimmed down to sustain the grind of a season and are truly motivated to win. Whether it is Duncan's attack via fundamentals or Nowitzki's jazz-like approach, both have games that get the job done.

It appears Nowitzki is willing to follow Duncan's lead when it comes to his bank account. In what could be his final contract, Duncan re-signed with the Spurs in the summer of 2012 for a three-year deal worth $30 million. The final year of his previous contract had him earning $21 million. Expecting to be the second-highest paid player in the league for the 2013-14 season, Nowitzki has already said he’s willing to take a “significant pay cut” next summer.

"At this point of my career, it's all about competing and winning," Nowitzki said in mid May. "It's not about money. Obviously, [Mark] Cuban took care of me for a long, long time. I always tried to pay him back by playing hard and being here for this franchise, so I don't think we're going to fight over money. I want to compete over these last couple of years. That's going to be the goal."

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Hubie Brown joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss every angle of Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals and whether he would want Dwight Howard on his team.

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The big difference is that Duncan has had help staying fresh over time as the Spurs have surrounded him with top-notch support. Both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have stepped up at different times during the Duncan era. On top of that, the Spurs are also starting to develop a new crop of studs in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

It is a given that Dallas needs to load up this summer and start finding more weapons to play alongside Dirk. While it’s still one year away, Nowitzki is showing that he’ll be proactive. The space will allow Dallas to continue their plan to get the team back to contender status.

At 37, Duncan is looking to get another championship ring. Age is just a number. Like Duncan, Nowitzki can use that to his advantage.

Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.

Vince Carter has earned eight All-Star appearances, the Rookie of the Year award and an Olympic gold medal during a career that has made a strong case for the Hall of Fame.

Carter’s boss would like to nominate him for another honor.

[+] EnlargeCarter
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonVince Carter's complete all-around game probably won't net much love from voters for the Sixth Man of the Year, but he's getting plenty from Mark Cuban. "He's basically been our best player."
“If we had a better record, he'd be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, if not the leading candidate,” Mark Cuban said recently. “He's basically been our best player.”

This is the first time in Carter’s 15-year career that he’s been featured in a reserve role, although he came off the bench occasionally last season. Carter has embraced being a sixth man, a role that makes it easier for coach Rick Carlisle to manage the 36-year-old’s minutes but puts Carter in position to make a major impact.

“I told coach from the beginning of the year that I was willing to do whatever and take on any role,” said Carter, who knew the Mavs would need scoring off the bench when former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry left for Boston. “Obviously, I’m definitely comfortable in this role. It’s a comfortable role because it’s who I am. I like to make plays and put the ball in the basket and find open guys.”

Carter, who has moved past Hal Greer, Larry Bird and Gary Payton this season to climb to 28th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, can still fill it up. He’s averaging 13.1 points in 25.3 minutes per game. The Mavs are 7-2 when Carter scores at least 20 points, including his 22-point outing in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Carter is also arguably the most complete player among the Sixth Man of the Year candidates. He’s a smart, unselfish facilitator (2.1 assists per game), solid rebounder (4.0 per game) and an extremely underrated defender. (The Mavs allow 7.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Carter on the floor than when he sits, according to 82games.com.)

The Mavs’ 29-33 record isn’t a reflection of Carter’s performance. In fact, his plus-minus of plus-151 ranks as the best on the team by 100 points.

Alas, there are too many quality sixth men from contenders for Carter to get serious consideration for the award. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, who leads bench players with 17.2 points per game, is considered the favorite in a field that also features the Knicks’ J.R. Smith, Thunder’s Kevin Martin, Warriors’ Jarrett Jack, Jazz’s Gordon Hayward and Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. Add the Hornets’ Ryan Anderson if you want to include a sixth man putting up stellar numbers on a losing squad.

Carter will be an afterthought in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. However, his professionalism and production are greatly appreciated by the Mavs, beginning with the man who signs the checks.

Can Mavs climb out of Lone Star cellar?

March, 3, 2013
3/03/13
10:57
AM CT
HOUSTON -- If the Dallas Mavericks manage to sweep the home-and-home series with the Houston Rockets over the next four days, we can continue entertaining their slim hopes of making the playoffs.

The reality, however, is that Dallas’ 12-year postseason streak is on its deathbed.

Really, there shouldn’t be any shame to that. It was a remarkable run that featured 11 50-win seasons, two Finals appearances and one title. All great things must come to an end.

Granted, the San Antonio Spurs might be an exception to that. They’re about to win 50 games for the 14th consecutive season. The last time the Spurs failed to win at least 50, they celebrated the first of their four NBA titles, parading down the RiverWalk after Tim Duncan’s lockout-shortened sophomore season.

It’s been a hard fall for the Mavs over the past 21 months. They’ve gone from the NBA penthouse, popping a $90,000 champagne bottle in a Miami Beach club while celebrating the franchise’s first title, to the Lone Star State cellar.

And the Mavs have their work cut out for them if they’re going to catch the Rockets, much less the Spurs, anytime soon.

The Spurs' ability to sustain excellence is unparalleled in today’s NBA. That will be tested when Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili call it a career, but it’d be foolish to doubt a franchise with the league’s best coach (Gregg Popovich) working with a brilliant front office.

The Rockets, who have won only one playoff series since two-time champion Hakeem Olajuwon left town, appear poised to soar again soon.

After three frustrating years of being better than .500 but not good enough to make the playoffs, Houston general manager Daryl Morey made a breakthrough move just before this season started. He acquired the bearded face of the franchise, James Harden, in a blockbuster deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 23-year-old Harden, who is averaging 26.3 points and 5.7 assists per game, has proved to be a legitimate superstar after getting out of the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He’s surrounded by a good, young supporting cast that is locked into reasonable contracts (26-year-old center Omer Asik and 24-year-old point guard Jeremy Lin) or rookie deals (small forward Chandler Parsons, power forward Donatas Motiejunas, power forward Thomas Robinson, etc.).

And the Rockets will have the cap space to be major players in free agency again this summer, when they can potentially acquire a co-star for Harden.

Of course, there are no guarantees for Houston, which will have to fight to stay in the playoff picture with the Los Angeles Lakers making a charge. There have been many young teams that looked great on paper that fizzled out, but Houston has an excellent plan and has already executed several steps.

The Mavs, on the other hand, have a plan that has been publicly questioned by its superstar, the lone player on the roster who is a sure bet to still be a Dallas resident in two years. As Dirk Nowitzki has said several times, this is a big summer for the Mavs.

Much work must be done for the Mavs to approach the high standard they established over the past dozen years.

This isn’t a franchise that will be satisfied to fight for eighth place in the West or settle for third place in the state of Texas.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9