The Dallas Mavericks season has been long over. This year, the Mavs didn’t manage to make it into the playoffs and despite their efforts to keep their team as competitive as it was when it one the NBA National Championship just a couple of years ago, this year they just couldn’t make it happen. The team has been guided by the 34 four year old power forward has played his entire career with the Mavericks and all though he only has one NBA title back in 2011 where he also won the NBA Finals MVP, he is an 11 times NBA All Star and a referent for the game both nationally and abroad.
This season, Marc Cuban and the Mavericks were unable to keep Deron Williams and Steve Nash once their contracts expired. The Mavericks retooled their roster by letting go of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Brendan Haywood, and acquiring younger players such as O. J. Mayo, Darren Collison, as well as veteran big men Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. The mix didn’t work to well, and in general, the Mavericks went under the radar for the better part of the season.
Now, Nowitzki has come out to make a strong statement. He realizes that he is in the final stretch of his professional career and he wants to close his career with another championship. But he realizes that been one of the players with the top two salaries in the league leaves the organization little space to bring and secure backup. That’s why Nowitzki has come out to say that if the Mavericks manage to meet with Chris Paul and or Dwayne Wade and either or both players sign with Dallas, he will be extremely flexible with his contract and earnings to accommodate the acquisition of even more talent in the summer of 2014.
“At this point of my career, it’s all about competing and winning,” Nowitzki said Thursday in a corporate even where he was working along one of his sponsors. “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 hard playing 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.”
The soon to be 35 year old Nowitzki will make $22.7 million in the final year of his contract next season, still has a higher salary than every NBA player except for Kobe Bryant. He knows quite well how to make and keep his money. The German has never hired and agent and has won more than $200 million throughout his career. So he knows that money isn’t a huge factor nor is it what keeps him motivated at this point of his career. After the very unsuccessful stop with the LA Lakers, it is unclear what the future holds for Dwight Howard. Perhaps the Mavericks could be a good fit. Now, in regards to Chris Paul, that’s a whole different story as he seems to be quite happy exactly where he is.
The Pacers are a low-key, defense-based team that lacks the shine and luster of other bigger and more economically savvy teams in the league. They do not have huge stars, nor players with fantastic endorsement. Sure enough, they do have a very loyal fan base, but other than that, the Pacers are not one of those teams we usually associate with the magic that goes on the NBA. Sure they don’t have players in the All-Star caliber, but heck, with their team-oriented play, their ability to rely heavily on a fortress like defense, the Pacers are proving that despite no one really showing Indiana some love in the regular season, the Pacers are now on the Eastern Conference Finals. Ahead of them, they are going to have to play the defending champions, Miami Heat at South Beach on Wednesday on game 1 of the NBA conference semis.
It didn’t matter much that the Knicks had Carmelo Anthony on the starting five. Sure, Melo is one of the most prolific scorers in the regular season, and he even went far enough to say that if the Knicks needed 50-60 points from him to win the game, he would have to go out there and do it. Now, Anthony would go on to finish the night with an impressive 39 points and 7 assists, despite having to work around a tight defense system. It was not enough and despite a huge effort from New York in the third quarter, the Pacers held their ground and took a 106-99 win at home over the Knicks to earn the Pacers their first trip to the Conference finals since 2004. Oh yeah, with a solid defense, this team is looking as strong as the franchise has looked in the last decade, and hopefully they will have what it takes to give LeBron James and the Heat a good run for their money.
Shooting guard Lance Stephenson guided the Pacers efforts with 25 points and 10 rebounds. “I just didn’t want to go back to New York and play Game 7,” Stephenson said in the postgame press conference. “Just get it done with now and I’d do whatever it takes to do that today. It showed tonight.” Indiana also got some production from their shooting forward Paul George who had 23 points and 21 points and 12 rebounds from their center Roy Hibbert to take the series against the New York Knicks by 4-2. The Pacers got only 8 points from the bench, in what was a very intense and long game for the starters. Now, this is a little something that head coach Frank Voegel is going to have to take into account when going against the Heat.
As of press time, the Heat has an -8 point advantage on the spread for game one of the series against the Pacers at South Beach. The game will kick off at 8pm Eastern Time. No money line has been set yet and until Monday early morning are we going to be able to report on the series price for the Eastern Conference Finals. Sure it’s going to take at least double of what they put on the court to beat the Knicks to step over the Heat. But hey, these guys are young, motivated and have nothing to lose. That’s one heck of a combination. Let´s see what they can bring to the equation down the stretch.
Sure enough the San Antonio Spurs are getting old, but the core of this team has been together for many years now, they’ve stick together through so many games and situations that they really now how to keep their cool and stay focused on the big prize. The Spurs came out a bit slow in their NBA Western Conference Semifinal series against the Golden State Warriors. They gave one game away at home, but came back and won on the road to even the series at two games a piece. But little else changed and as the Warriors were doing what they could to cope with injuries and the ailing ankle of their point guard and sharp shooter Steve Curry, the Spurs just keep on fighting and they managed to win the last two games of the series, including this latest 94-82 win at the Oracle Arena in Oakland California.
It seems that the Spurs know exactly how to manage their times, their tempo, how to wear off an opponent, slowly but surely. Veteran Tim Duncan had 19 points and six rebounds, while Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and 10 rebounds to help shape this outcome. This was a good performance for the veteran Spurs. “They’ve got great character. They’re competitive. They know there’s not a million chances to do this sort of thing. They wanted it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said to the press about his team’s character.
The Spurs built a lead in the third quarter, and then held on to the furious rally by the Warriors in the fourth quarter, and took this win to earn a ticket to the Conference Finals. They will face the Memphis Grizzlies, the 5th seeded team that defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the next round. Should they managed to dominate that series as well, the Spurs will make it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007, when they swept LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The dream is now over for the Indiana Pacers. I can’t help but to wonder what this series could had been if the Pacers came along with a much better health. Stephen Curry, the Pacers offensive weapon of choice was a bit off. He shot 10-of-25 from the floor to score 22 points, but did so on an ankle on which most mortals wouldn’t dare to walk on. Jarrett Jack had 15 points as well, but the injury-saddled Golden State finally gave in. Harrison Barnes, the rookie player who’s a key part of the Warriors defense, also suffered a head injury in the second quarter of the game. Sure enough, he returned in the third and made a couple of plays, but he was sidelined in the last 12 minutes with a strong headache.
The Warriors season is now officially over. But they should be proud of their play. “It’s inspiring to think of what we were able to accomplish this year and the foundation that has been laid,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. The team has sted positive. Even the injured Curry looks at this as a learning experience. “It will take a minute to realize the accomplishments we have made, for a Warriors team to be in this position – he said to the press-. “It’s a good thing, and we can build on this for next year.”
In a best of seven game series all it takes is for one of the contenders to win 4 games. The Pacers were playing at the Madison Square Garden, going on against a team that was against the ropes. Let´s consider that down 3-1 for the series the Knicks were 0-12 in playoffs games in that same scenario. This time around, however, the Knicks played their home court advantage card right, and behind the offensive prowess of their star Carmelo Anthony, and his 28 points and 6 rebounds, they managed to take a 85-75 win at home. It was not a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination, truth be said, the injured and somewhat shorthanded Pacers had to deal with a couple of absentees and some foul trouble. But they managed to cope well, despite not closing the series in game 5. The Knicks are not playing better, that´s clear. But they are playing harder, and under these circumstances, that might be just what they need to keep on winning.
Now, next game will be played on Saturday at Indiana, and the Knicks are going to have to do all they can to win this one on the road. If they do managed to return from a 3-1 deficit, win on Saturday and return the series to the Madison Squre Garden on Monday for game seven, and beat the Pacers once again, they would become only the 9th team in NBA history to come back from such a deficit. Nnow, in order to get that result, the Knicks will have to rely heavily on a brilliant performance from their bench. Last night the Knicks got plenty of production from their reserves J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland whom each had 13 points.
The Knicks showed some grit, plenty of courage to make up for some not too good basketball skills. It didn’t matter much, right now they will go ahead and take a win however they may. “I was totally impressed because we met the challenge,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said to the press in the postgame conference. “I think as a coach you come into games like this and you want to see who’s going to step up and make plays, and I thought we did that tonight. We were the better team in terms of doing that.”
The Pacers got plenty of production from their starts. Paul George would go on to finish the night with 23 points, six rebounds and six assists. They had to cope with the absence of without point guard George Hill because of a concussion. Playing without their main play creator would cost the Pacers greatly. Without Hill, the playmaking was left to D.J. Agustin, who, to be fair, finished the night with 12 points but had no assists. The team as a whole had to share the ball a little too much and they ended up making 19 very costly turnovers. David West had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who are trying to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2004.