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J.A. Adande and Israel Gutierrez with a look at the Western Conference playoffs thus far.

Cuban: NBA has 'taken huge strides'

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
1:31
PM CT

SAN ANTONIO -- The NBA office has started providing teams detailed analysis of officiating after every game.

For several years, the detailed officiating analysis has been used internally by the league office. The decision was made to make the analysis available to the teams this season.

"For the teams, it gives them an idea of how we're seeing the game, how it's being graded," NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn told ESPNDallas.com, adding that the analysis increases confidence around the league about the commitment to quality officiating. "It's no longer a mystery, if you will."

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was the first to publicly mention the reports, has long lobbied for more transparency regarding referees.

Cuban describes the league as "far more proactive and far more transparent" since Adam Silver replaced the retired David Stern as the commissioner in February.

"I think they've taken huge strides," Cuban said. "You can always improve, but you've got to take that first step before you can improve it."

The league has continued its policy of making statements to acknowledge when a critical call late in a game is made incorrectly, such as after the openers of the Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers-Houston Rockets series. The reports sent to the teams, which cover all calls made throughout games, are confidential.


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Dirk: I'd rather play Game 3 on the road

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:11
PM CT
SAN ANTONIO – Dirk Nowitzki enjoyed the Mavericks’ first playoff victory since they clinched the 2011 championship for a few minutes before he started fretting about Game 3.

The Mavs seized home-court advantage in the series by routing the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 at the AT&T Center. However, Nowitzki doesn’t think the Mavs have much of a home-court advantage, as much as he appreciates the folks who fill the American Airlines Center.

“I’m a little worried,” Nowitzki said. “I’m a little worried going home. I’d rather play Game 3 here, I guess. We’ve got to figure it out at home. We can’t relax. That’s the thing.”

The Mavs tied for the league’s fourth-best road record (23-18) during the regular season, winning six of their last seven games away from the AAC. Their home record (26-15) was the worst of any of the West’s eight playoff teams, including a disappointing 4-4 homestand late in the season.

The Spurs had the league’s best road record at 30-11, so relaxing even a little bit would be a recipe for disaster for the Mavs.

That was the message Nowitzki made a point to deliver moments after Game 2.

“I like our intensity right now,” Nowitzki said. “It’s a little dangerous going home. We’ve been actually a decent road team all year, but at home, we haven’t figured it out yet. We’ve lost the big [home] games over the last couple of months.

“We can’t take the foot off the gas. We’ve got to keep competing the same way, and then I like our chances going home.”

Sixteen games are in the books from the 2014 NBA playoffs -- two games apiece in eight series replete with drama and surprise -- and the chess match is on. One of the most fascinating aspects of the postseason is how the opposing coaches get to match wits over multiple games, a dynamic we don't see during the rush of the regular season. Player usage, motivational techniques, play calling -- all of these elements of leading a team are under the microscope this time of year.

We know teams tighten their rotations during the playoffs, with star players typically getting between three and six additional minutes per night. Beyond that, however, the matchups dictate who sees more or less time on the floor. A lineup you might not see much in the season may suddenly click against a particular opponent and become a relied-upon combination in the subsequent games. Then, in the very next round, that combination may well disappear.

With that in mind, let's look at one lineup combination for each team (members of the starting five can be included) that I'd like to see more of in the first round.


Eastern Conference

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks

Pacers: Ian Mahinmi, George Hill, C.J. Watson, Paul George, Luis Scola (plus-14 in playoffs)

The suggested lineup is an observation about how Frank Vogel might want to manage his reserves. More than anything, as Vogel focuses his rotation around eight players, he may need to abandon the Evan Turner experiment. Turner has scored 12 points in 30 minutes in the series, but Indiana is minus-15 with him on the floor. This suggested lineup was a big part of Indiana's Game 2 win but saw just one minute of court time together during the regular season.


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Physical Blair plays with fire vs. ex-team

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
10:00
AM CT
SAN ANTONIO – Truth be told, there might have only been one member of the Dallas Mavericks who was happy to draw the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

That’s bench banger DeJuan Blair, who seeks some sort of redemption or revenge after riding San Antonio’s bench during the Spurs’ run to the Finals last season, his fourth and final year with the franchise.

[+] EnlargeDeJuan Blair, Tim Duncan
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsDeJuan Blair had eight points, seven rebounds and four steals in 14 minutes vs. the Spurs in Game 2.
"Yeah, but I'm not going to bring that up,” Blair said after the Mavs evened the series with a stunning rout in Game 2. “The Spurs are a great team, but we can play with the best of them. We showed that tonight, but we've just got to keep it up. It's going to be a long series."

It’s guaranteed to go at least five games now, in part due to Blair’s contributions Wednesday night after a quiet Game 1 against his former team.

Blair had eight points, seven rebounds and four steals in 14 minutes during the win. The Mavs outscored the Spurs by 13 points with Blair on the floor.

Those numbers can be found in the box score. There’s no telling how many bruises the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Blair left on old buddy Tim Duncan while battling his future Hall of Fame former teammate on the block and under the boards.

“He had a physical impact,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Blair. “He was on the boards and was getting deflections. The only way we’re going to win a series against a team like this is to have guys playing at complete full capacity, and he did. He gave us a huge lift.”

The highlight of the night for Blair was stripping Manu Ginobili in the open court and rumbling for a one-man fast break that he finished with a spinning layup. That play was a bonus for the Mavs. Blair’s job is to throw his big body around.

“That's my plan,” Blair said. “We don't have anyone on this team to do that. I know if I can play, I can come in and bring that physicality and just do what I do."

Blair didn’t get to do that much during last season’s playoffs, giving him a little extra motivation when he returned to San Antonio with the Mavs this postseason.

Mavs found 'formula' for beating Spurs

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
9:00
AM CT
SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks have played 96 minutes of playoff basketball against the San Antonio Spurs. It's not a stretch to say that Dallas has been the better team for all but nine minutes of it and has upstaged San Antonio along the way.

The significance of the Game 2 victory can not be understated. The Mavs had lost 10 straight games to the Spurs. They had lost eight in a row in San Antonio. On top of that, they lost five consecutive playoff games to their I-35 rival. That is all wiped away now.

A massive part of Dallas' ability to secure the split was showing their strength in numbers. Everyone who played in Wednesday's victory for Dallas played with a sense of urgency and had a positive impact on the game.

"That's the formula," Mavs forward Vince Carter said. "We have to play, from top to bottom, like it's our last game. Everybody answered the challenge. The tough thing about it is that we have to do it again, again and again for us to come out victorious in this series."

While this is a 1 versus 8 matchup, in the Western Conference each team has a legitimate shot to give its opponent a fight. The Mavs have shown that they can battle against San Antonio for two games. While it's going to come down to adjustments and matchups, the Mavs must ensure they have one thing on their side in order to keep their momentum going.

"The only way we're going to win a series against a team like this is having guys playing at full capacity," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

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Marion rushes home for baby's birth

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:13
AM CT
SAN ANTONIO -- This will be one of the most memorable nights of Shawn Marion's life.

His massive contributions to the Dallas Mavericks' first playoff win since they popped champagne bottles in Miami a few years ago were a mere footnote.

Marion wasn't available to the media after the Mavs evened the series with a 113-92 rout of the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, but he had a really good reason for bolting out of the AT&T Center visitor's locker room after the win. He rushed to the airport to hop on a private jet to get to his hometown of Chicago for the birth of his first child, a source confirmed to ESPNDallas.com with the approval of the proud new father.

The 15-year veteran forward, one of the most versatile players in the history of the league, stuffed the box score with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 35 minutes during Game 2. He did an outstanding the job as the primary defender on All-Star point guard Tony Parker, who had only 12 points and three assists in the blowout.

The performance by the man known as "Matrix" could speak for itself.

However, his coach and teammates were happy to speak about Marion as he rushed to the airport.

"I thought Marion played a phenomenal game all-around -- defense, offense, he hit one or two 3s, he was rebounding," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He was terrific."

That's the kind of performance the Mavs need from a 35-year-old who joins Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Kevin Garnett as the only players in NBA history to record at least 17,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals and 1,000 blocks in their careers.

The list of players capable of doing a solid defensive job on every player from Parker to Tim Duncan might be even shorter.

"He's one of the strangest players that I've played with in this league," said Dirk Nowitzki, who joins Marion as the only players remaining on the Mavs' roster from the 2011 title run. "He can do a lot of things out there. On defense, I've been saying for the last five years with him, he's our best perimeter defender. I've seen him guard [point guards to centers] in my five years with him, so on that end, you can always rely on him. On offense, he's just so great on the move. He posts up a little bit, he's just so great when he cuts and moves, and when he makes the 3 ball, he's great.

"We're going to need him. He was great tonight."

Marion was great in Game 2, and that wasn't even the best part of the Matrix's night.

Carlisle has upper hand on Pop so far

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
11:49
PM CT
SAN ANTONIO -- Gregg Popovich, who tends to receive praise with all the grace of a one-man fast break featuring 270-pound DeJuan Blair, refused to believe Rick Carlisle was sincere with his Wednesday morning declaration that the San Antonio Spurs' sideline wizard deserves to be considered "Coach of the Century."

"Rick's a wise ass," Popovich grumbled about two hours before a blink-and-you-missed-it pregame ceremony to present him the Red Auerbach Trophy, commemorating his third NBA Coach of the Year award.

[+] EnlargeRick Carlisle
AP Photo/Eric GayRick Carlisle, above, is sincere in his praise of Gregg Popovich, but the Mavs' coach surely relishes the chance to go up against a coaching legend.
There's nothing sarcastic about Carlisle's Pop praise, but the Dallas Mavericks' coach is an awfully smart man himself. That has been apparent for ages, but it's especially obvious now that this Nos. 8 vs. 1 Western Conference matchup seems as if it's going to be a real series.

With all due respect to Phil Jackson, Carlisle is adamant that Popovich is indeed the Coach of the Century. That's a worthy subject for bar-stool and sports-talk discussions, but there's no doubt who deserves to be considered Coach of the Series so far.

It's Carlisle, and it isn't close.

The ingenious defensive plan concocted by Carlisle and his coaching staff is the primary reason Dallas rolled to a stunning 113-92 rout in Game 2 at the AT&T Center, earning the Mavs their first postseason victory since they clinched the 2011 championship with a radically different roster and, more important, evening this series.

The Mavs seemed to have no hope of slowing down the Spurs, a phenomenally efficient offensive team that had won nine straight games entering the series against Dallas. San Antonio lit it up for an average of 112.3 points while sweeping the recently completed regular-season series between the Interstate 35 rivals, raining in 42 3-pointers in the four games.

In this series, the Mavs made preventing open perimeter looks by Spurs role players such as Danny Green and Patty Mills their top defensive priority. It has worked wonders, as San Antonio shooters not named Manu Ginobili are just 5-of-25 from long range.

By switching on the majority of pick-and-rolls, the Mavs have gummed up the Spurs' typically splendid ball movement, holding San Antonio to an average of 91 points in the series and forcing an astounding 24 turnovers in Game 2, with Dallas converting those opportunities into 33 points.

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SAN ANTONIO -- Sometimes, for a superstar such as Dirk Nowitzki, it's not about the points you score. Or the rebounds you grab. Or the passes you make.

Sometimes, it's just about the will to win, which is as intense as it has ever been.

That's why 35-year-old Dirk, playing in his 130th playoff game during his 16th NBA season dived for a loose ball during the third quarter Wednesday night at AT&T Center.

He corralled the ball near midcourt and fired a pass Monta Ellis for a driving layup against the Spurs.

It's that type of competitive spirit the Mavs displayed all night against San Antonio as they won their first playoff game since beating Miami for the title in June 2011.

It's why they kicked the Spurs' butt in Game 2 of this Western Conference quarterfinal.

Dallas 113, San Antonio 92.

"Sometimes, we get in trouble when we don't get those loose balls, those 50-50 balls," Dirk said. "Sometimes, if you want to win on the road you gotta give that little extra, play a little harder and compete like we did tonight. We deserved to win."

And when the extra effort comes from a dude who's the face of the franchise and the 10th-leading scorer in NBA history it motivates everyone else. See, Dirk owns a championship ring and a NBA Finals MVP and every other individual accolade you would ever want, but his desire to win has never waned.

"Him diving on the floor, having been in the league 17 years and at his age that don't do nothing but motivate us as a team to do the same thing and hit the floor as well," Ellis said of Dirk.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle will deny it, but it will be hard for the Mavs to play much better than they did Game 2.


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Jose Calderon answers call in second half

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
11:29
PM CT
SAN ANTONIO -- It was a new day, a new game and a new Jose Calderon for the Dallas Mavericks. Maybe it wasn't a brand-new Calderon, but it was the one the team had come to expect over the course of the season.

As the San Antonio Spurs ended the first half on a 10-point run and pulled to within five points, it was clear the game and, potentially, the series was on the line for Dallas. Out of all of Dallas' explosive options on offense, Calderon was the one who delivered the counterpunch.

[+] Enlarge Jose Calderon
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesWhen the Mavs needed a boost after the Spurs rallied in the first half, Jose Calderon scored all 12 of his points in the third quarter.
After going scoreless in the first half, Calderon scored all 12 of his points in the third quarter and finished the game 5-of-10 from the field in the victory. The Spurs continued to try to run him off the 3-point shot, but he was able to operate off the dribble. He was able to figure things out and ultimately got hot.

"It felt great when I saw those shots go in," Calderon said. "It always gives you a little bit more confidence, for sure."

After he scored only seven points in Game 1, many wondered if Calderon's minutes were going to be cut again in favor of Devin Harris, who played 32 minutes to Calderone’s 16 in that loss. While Harris delivered another strong game with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes, Calderon kept his poise by being aggressive and staying the course over 28 minutes Wednesday night.

"Listen, Calderon has been great for us all year," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We need him. ... He’s played in a lot of big games. He’s played in a lot of hostile environments. You know, in Europe, those venues are wild. There’s people throwing stuff. There’s all sorts of stuff going on there, so he’s used to that environment.

"He knows what this is all about. My message to him has been, ‘Hey, you stay aggressive and keep doing what you do. That’s what we need you to do.’"

Calderon's response from Game 1 to Game 2 shows that he got the message. As things appeared to be coming apart at the seams, Calderon and the team regrouped and got back on track.

"Sometime when it's low, everybody gets so crazy too quickly," Calderon said. "I've had some bad games or could have done better, but we're 15 guys. Coach makes the decision. It doesn't [matter] who plays more minutes. Whoever is in there is going to try to do the best for our team to win.

"That's what everyone has to understand. It's not about who got more points on our team. It's about who got more points as a team. That's what basketball is about."

Even though this is his first playoff appearance since the 2007-08 season, Calderon is a veteran and knew that Game 1 was just one game and he would have a chance to show he could bring value to the team.

"I wasn't worrying about it," Calderon explained. "I was just trying to go out there and do my job. I was lucky today that my shots were going in. I feel comfortable. My guys have confidence in me. It's been like that for 82 games and two playoff games. It's not going to change after one game."

While Calderon will be the consummate teammate and gladly step to aside for a teammate if he's not delivering, he's still a proud guy who wants to have a positive impact on his team. He was able to rise to the occasion and display some shooter's amnesia as his third-quarter performance was instrumental in Dallas' ability to steal the home-court advantage.

"I always try to go out there and play the best basketball I can and make every shot possible, but there's nights you're shooting and the ball isn't going to fall. I'll keep being aggressive and hopefully they can keep falling."

It might have taken an extra game, but Calderon answered the challenge.

Spurs' loss raises specter of 2011

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
11:04
PM CT
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SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs spent the past 10 months trying to erase the memory of their NBA Finals collapse against the Miami Heat in June.

After Wednesday's blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs suddenly find themselves having to fend off other skeletons in their closet. It was only three years ago that San Antonio became one of just five No. 1-seeded teams in NBA history to be upset by a No. 8 seed in the first round of the playoffs.

With the Mavs thoroughly dominating in a 113-92 Game 2 win to knot the series 1-1 as it shifts back to Dallas, these Spurs sure seem ripe for history to repeat. Only, if you listened to most of the Spurs' players after a game in which they coughed up 24 turnovers leading to 33 points for the Mavericks, were outmuscled on the boards and allowed four Dallas players to hit for 16 points or more, it was nothing to get bent out of shape about.

"We lost one game," Tim Duncan said, flatly, after following up his 27 points in Game 1 with just 11 points in Game 2. "We didn't expect to go 16-0. We didn't expect to win every game."

Danny Green, who was 12 for 20 from 3 in the Spurs' four-game regular season sweep of the Mavs but now finds himself just 2-for-6 against them in the playoffs, was similarly unperturbed by how the series has opened.

"This group has been together for a couple years now so I expect us to bounce back," said Green. "To have that experience helps a lot. I'm pretty positive in the direction that we're going in. I don't think anybody in this locker room is too nervous about anything."


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Turnovers Hurt Spurs

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
10:18
PM CT


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Following a 113-92 loss to the Mavs, Gregg Popovich said turnovers were the Spurs' biggest problem.
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SAN ANTONIO -- Monta Ellis scored 21 points and the Dallas Mavericks rolled to a 113-92 victory over San Antonio on Wednesday night, snapping a 10-game skid against the Spurs and evening their first-round series at a game apiece.

Shawn Marion scored 20 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 16, Devin Harris had 18 and Jose Calderon 12 for Dallas, which never trailed after the opening minutes of the second quarter.

Manu Ginobili had 27 points, Tony Parker added 12 and Tim Duncan 11 for the Spurs.

Dallas didn't relent in Game 2 after blowing a 10-point lead in the final eight minutes of the series opener. San Antonio's ineptness had as much to do with tying the series, however. The Spurs averaged 14.4 turnovers during the regular season, but had 15 with 3 minutes left in the first half. They finished with 22 turnovers, which resulted in 33 points for the Mavericks.


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Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 113, Spurs 92

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
9:32
PM CT
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SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks stunned the San Antonio Spurs and evened the first-round series with a 113-92 win in Game 2.

How it happened: Believe it or not, Dallas won with suffocating defense.

That's certainly a surprise, considering the Mavs struggled defensively all season and the top-seeded Spurs rank among the NBA's most efficient offensive teams. But it's true, as the Mavs forced an astounding 24 turnovers.

The Spurs did shoot 50 percent from the field, led by sixth man Manu Ginobili scoring 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but that wasn't nearly enough to overcome San Antonio's uncharacteristic sloppiness with the ball.

Dallas' offense was fueled by its defense, converting all of those San Antonio turnovers into 33 points. Six Mavs scored in double figures, led by 21 points from Monta Ellis and 20 from defensive stopper Shawn Marion.

The Mavs routed the Spurs despite the second straight off-game by superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki. He missed his first six shots and finished with 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting.

The Spurs closed the first half with a 10-0 run featuring eight points by Ginobili, cutting the deficit to five despite committing 15 turnovers before halftime. However, the Mavs took that punch and came out swinging in the third quarter, building their lead back up to 16.

After a scoreless first half, Mavs point guard Jose Calderon took over in the third quarter. He had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and dished out four assists in the frame, drilling jumpers on three straight possessions at one point, the final one despite a foul.

San Antonio, which rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final seven-plus minutes to win Game 1, never made a run in the fourth quarter.

What it means: This might actually be an entertaining series. The teams head to Dallas tied 1-1 after the Mavs snapped a 10-game overall losing streak to the Spurs with their first playoff victory since clinching the 2011 championship. Teams that split the first two games on the road in best-of-seven series are 93-105 in NBA history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It would have pretty much just been a matter of when the Mavs' offseason fishing trip would start if they didn't get this win. Teams that lose the first two games on the road in best-of-seven series are 13-207, a puny winning percentage of .059.

Play of the game: DeJuan Blair stripped Ginobili and took off on a one-man, relatively fast break, spinning in the lane and finishing with a layup. That bucket by the 6-foot-7, 270-pound former Spur stretched the Mavs' lead to 16 with 1:03 left in the third quarter.

Stat of the night: The Spurs, who averaged 14.4 turnovers in the regular season, had 15 in the first half. According to data from ESPN Stats & Information, that's the most turnovers the Spurs committed in the first half of a game in the past five seasons, including playoffs.

Rick Carlisle praises Gregg Popovich

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
1:41
PM CT

SAN ANTONIO -- As far as Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is concerned, NBA Coach of the Year isn't enough of an honor for San Antonio Spurs counterpart Gregg Popovich.

"Why don't we just give him Coach of the Century?" Carlisle said after Wednesday's shootaround at AT&T Center, before Game 2 of the teams' first-round series. "I mean, he's the greatest. Obviously, [Coach of the Year is] very well deserved. They were almost a wire-to-wire top seed in the league, and he's the best. He's the best."

Popovich, whose Spurs recovered from a devastating Finals loss last season to roll to a league-best 62-20 record despite dealing with nagging injuries to several key players, received the honor Tuesday for the second time in three seasons. He joined Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only three-time winners of the award.

Carlisle, the award's winner in 2001-02 while with Detroit, has consistently raved about the remarkable job Popovich has done guiding the Spurs to four championships and 15 consecutive seasons with at least 50 wins.

During a visit to San Antonio last season, Carlisle said with a straight face that Popovich is "the smartest man in the history of the world." When the Spurs were in Dallas earlier this month, Carlisle called Popovich "the best coach in any sport ever, in my opinion."


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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2