Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 30, 2011 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

Johnny Ludden, Yahoo Sports: In a lot of ways, Nowitzki is not unlike David Robinson before Tim Duncan joined his side. Robinson waded through the same torrent of criticism each year the Spurs went out early in the playoffs. Many times, it should have been an indictment on the supporting cast around him rather than his own shortcomings. The soft label has never really fit Nowitzki, no matter how many times someone tries to hang it on him. He plays tough. He plays clutch. This series offered more evidence. In three of the Mavs’ four victories, Nowitzki scored 18, 14 and 14 points in the fourth quarters. On Thursday, the Blazers’ Chris Johnson raked Nowitzki across the face, a flagrant foul that left Nowitzki sprawled on his back. After a few moments, Nowitzki picked himself, made both free throws then promptly stuck a step-back jump shot. The next time down the floor, he drove for a reverse layup. ‘Toughness doesn’t always mean throwing a punch back,” Chandler said. “It means getting up and going at ‘em even tougher. … Dirk got up. Instead of getting in some dumb altercation, he said, ‘All right, I’m going to punish you.’’”

Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: “As the Mavericks were leaving the court after ending Portland’s season, some of the Blazer fans were understandably yelling at them. But the message wasn’t one of anger. ‘They were great,’ Dirk Nowitzki said of the fans. ‘When we won and were walking off the court, a lot of them were yelling ‘go beat LA.” The Mavericks will give that their best shot, of course, but they understand that it will not be easy. They went 1-2 against the Lakers in the regular season and everybody knows that beating the two-time defending champions is going to be a huge challenge.”

The Brothers Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: “Zone Defense. The Mavs play a ton of it, and with a great deal of success and, unlike many other squads, a great deal of pride. Rick Carlisle has used it to take advantage of their frontcourt length and protect his smaller lineup, too, all with positive results. Dallas finished the season just behind the Lakers in defensive efficiency (102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions), and while they don’t dominate in any particular statistical category, the Mavs are a top 10 bunch in opponent’s field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throws allowed, and defensive rebounding percentage. The Lakers, a mediocre jump shooting team often too easily seduced into taking them, will need to show discipline offensively in attacking it.”

Kevin Ding, The Orange County Register: “Jackson acknowledges that Dallas is an uncommonly good team at closing games with outstanding sets for outstanding shooters Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Dallas was 16-7 in games decided by five points or fewer until losing its mojo late in the season and finishing 17-11 in such games. Then the Mavericks blew a 23-point late lead in Game 4 in Portland — but they did close out the Trail Blazers by winning the next two games. The best regular-season game between the Lakers and Mavs featured the Lakers closing better on March 12, their defense trumping Dallas’ offense. Notable: The Lakers were just 7-18 this season when they trailed entering the fourth quarter.”

Ben Golliver, CBS Sports: “Minutes after the victory, an elated and loose Mavericks locker room had already set its sights on Los Angeles. ‘It’s a nice win,’ Nowitzki said. ‘I don’t want to overrate this win. Our goal over the past five or six years is always to win the championship … To win it all, you have to take the first step and that’s winning in the first round. We feel good about that, but we know we have a long way to go. Now we’ll see the defending champions so we’ll have our hands full.’ ‘Game one is huge,’ Terry said. ‘You go in there, it’s a hostile environment. They’re the champs. But we can’t stop playing Maverick basketball.’”

Jeff Caplan, ESPN Dallas: “Aside from the obvious shenanigans that could be coming with some colorful personalities, the more subdued Haywood will play perhaps the most critical bench role outside of Terry. Just as he helped starting center Tyson Chandler keep a fresh, big body on LaMarcus Aldridge, which certainly seemed to grind on the Seagoville product over the six games, Haywood will have to provide solid defense and rebounding against the Lakers’ 7-foot front line of forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum, as well as the 6-10 Odom. ‘This team was built on the matchup against the Lakers,’ Terry said. ‘Obviously, they’re the barometer. They set the bar and we’re a team that’s the underdog, obviously, in that series. Nobody’s going to pick us to win, but it’s going to be fun.’”

Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: “The Mavs knew before tipoff that the Lakers had closed out the Hornets, meaning Kobe and Co. would get a weekend of rest before the beginning of the second round. That increased the importance of finishing off Portland and preventing 38-year-old Jason Kidd and the rest of the veteran Mavs from further taxing their bodies in the first round. ‘This was kind of our Game 7,’ Dirk Nowitzki said. ‘We didn’t want to play again Saturday. Get Kidd a couple of days of rest before we go in a tough environment in L.A. We definitely talked about it before the game, that this was our Game 7, and that’s the way both teams played.’”

Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: “Like all the Mavericks, Tyson Chandler paid close attention to the Lakers’ first-round series against New Orleans. He saw what gave the Lakers problems. And he saw situations when they flourished. He believes the Mavericks can use that education to their advantage. ‘How to play them,’ he said about what he’d learned from the regular season and first round of the playoffs with regard to the Lakers. ‘We watched the way New Orleans played them and we can’t play a slow-paced game. If we play a slow pace, it falls right into their hands. We got to turn it into a race and get up and down the floor.’”