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Mavs may be in great position to thwart the Spurs after all

This was supposed to be the ultimate humiliation. An easy four game sweep for the San Antonio Spurs to prove what a worthless endeavor it was to get back in the playoffs and that tanking worse than the Sixers to fight for the right to draft an untested college freshman was the better way to go.

Oops.

The dream of so many to see the Mavs swept away in the first round came to a crashing halt Wednesday night, thanks to the Mavs’ 113-92 win in Game Two. The team that had lost 10 straight overall to San Antonio simply schooled them on their home floor, picking off balls everywhere and getting so many contributions that they easily won despite another subpar game from Dirk Nowitzki.

While some can grumble that they could have gotten two wins in the Alamo City had they not fallen apart late in Game One like so many times before, the truth remains that the Mavs got the split in San Antonio that they had to hope for. And now this series heads to the AAC with Dallas being the team that, except for six minutes, has been the better squad overall.

That doesn’t mean we still can’t be concerned about Game One slipping away. History has shown it almost always comes back to bite teams that lose a game in a series that they seem to have had won. The Lakers and Heat never recovered from early blown losses to the Mavs during the 2011 playoffs.

But maybe, just maybe this is one time that such a blown game could be a benefit more than a negative.

The Mavs have a bad trait of blowing big leads late – that everyone pretty much knows about. But unlike the regular season, the Mavs get to face that same team immediately again with evidence as to what they did wrong – and what to correct against this same team.

And while the Mavs can look back at the video and think that they could be up 2-0 in this series, the Spurs can look at it and see something worse. Just like the Ducks have against the Stars, they have not played well at all this series. And they’re in worse shape on the scoreboard that the Ducks were after two games.

And now they have to find a way to completely turn things around with the next two games in hostile territory. If the Mavs win Game Three on Saturday, this Spurs team could be in a lot of trouble.

This may be just overreacting. After all, every Western Conference series is currently tied or has the underdog with the lead in games. Does that mean all the top seeds are going to fall? Not likely. With how spread open the league is getting, we still may see the top seeds advance in the end; we just shouldn’t expect easy sweeps by the highest seeds in the first round anymore.

Like it or not, the Spurs historically are still among the best at adjusting. Even Dirk admits the Mavs have not been great at defending the home court this season. And expecting them to force more than 20 turnovers again may be asking too much.

Still, when you take into account that four number one seeds have gone down in the first round since the league expanded the round to best-of-seven (including both the Mavs and Spurs) and that the lower seed advanced the last three times these two met in the playoffs, saying this is still a gimme for the Spurs is way too premature.

We know this series ain’t ending in four now. And one way or another, it’s likely gonna last a lot longer than that.

Goodnight, it’s great to have the playoffs back in Dallas.

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Please Spurs, just go away

Warning: The following has been written from the perspective of the extreme bias of a die-hard fan and may or may not be intended to be taken seriously.

Last year, seeing the Dallas Mavericks NOT be in the playoffs was painful. Now that they’re back, I’d say the time has come to not be objective. The playoffs are supposed to be about passion, so the time has come to be biased as all get out.

So I’m putting that all out at the risk of severely ticking off a few acquaintances and even a few relatives.

I am sick to death of the San Antonio Spurs.

I want the Mavericks to win this series almost as badly as I wanted to beat Miami in 2011.

If disaster occurs and the Spurs advance, I will root against them in the next round and the round after that. And if we get another Spurs-Heat Finals – well, that’s like choosing between Godzilla or Gigan; it doesn’t matter because whoever wins is going to devastate your city.

I hate the Spurs fans and how they claim their team represents all the good in the NBA. No, they don’t. They represent what’s wrong with it.

I hate the fact that the Spurs built this run of championships by the shadiest, most underhanded way possible: They intentionally tanked a season. How David Robinson, who is supposed to have such high moral standards, agreed to ever play for the Spurs again after they forced him to sit out the rest of 1997 with “back issues” I’ll never know. The Spurs should have been stripped of that draft pick and several others for what they did, and instead they got one of the last number one picks to actually be a franchise player. As a result, teams tank left and right nowadays to try and get the next Tim Duncan despite no such player being available, flushing all credibility for the league down the toilet.

Oh, and Duncan? Yeah, I’m sick of him too. His legion of fans in San Antonio love to claim how he’s this class act. This is a guy who believes he has never committed a foul in his life. He’s probably still pouting over that blocking foul he picked up in an AAU game 20 years ago.

I’m sick of the Spurs’ offense, which can best be described as “Cure For Insomnia.” The Spurs have the talent to be one of the most high-flying teams out there, and yet they intentionally try to play the most boring, sleep-inducing brand of basketball in history. Are the rumors true that every Spurs player gets fined if they score 100 in a game, even if they win? The way they play, they might as well go up and down the floor waving middle fingers at the crowd to say “we don’t give a f*ck about you.” They’re lucky to be playing in this era, where you can win with defense and absolutely nothing else. The Lakers and even the Celtics of the 80s would put up 150 on them every night.

I hate how Greg Poppovich is considered some great genius. Especially because he sits players on select games, once again proving this is a team that completely doesn’t care about the people that pay their salaries. Pop, you do know that there’s a very good chance that someone, especially when you go on the road, is watching your team for the first and maybe only time in their life and did so in order to see Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobuli (though for the life of me, I don’t know why), and you frequently deny them that chance on the claims that you have to keep players rested for the playoffs? If these guys aren’t conditioned enough to handle a full 82-game schedule like so many others are, maybe it’s time they pack it in.

I hate how their fans whine and complain that the league is out to get them because they’re “small market.” Excuse me? You ended up winning the draft lottery twice in 10 years, and you think the league is conspiring against you? Your star player whines every singe time he gets whistled, yet he almost never gets T’d up. You’ve brought home the trophy four times, and yet you constantly claim the league is actively trying to deny you?

You didn’t lose the title last year because of biased officiating or any other act on the part of the league to ensure LeBron and Co. got another ring. You lost it because your coach was stupid in Game Six. You had the chance to step on the throat and end it in that game, and what does Pop do? Start the fourth quarter with his worst lineup possible, allowing the Heat to creep back in. Then, in a tighter contest late, he keeps Duncan on the bench when you need defense and rebounding more than ever, leading to TWO offensive rebounds on missed free throws that turned into three pointers for Miami. You got complacent and didn’t go for the kill shot, like the Mavs did to that same team two years earlier.

When the Spurs lost in the first round in 2011, it looked like it might be the start of the end of this dark era. But sadly, thanks to a lack of good young talent flowing in to challenge the status quo, this old, unentertaining bunch gets to keep plodding on and turning more and more people over to hockey.

So please, Mavericks. Shock the world and send the Spurs home whining and crying just like you did in 2006.

Because I’m just sick of them.

Stern and the NBA Should Realize Less is More

I’ve never liked the San Antonio Spurs. They’re the biggest competition for my Mavericks. Their style of play is sleep-inducing and a big contribution to the decline in the NBA’s popularity over the past 15 years. Add even the possibility that they intentionally tanked the 1997 season to get the top pick and it worked out is a microcosm of what’s wrong with our sports draft system, which I should get into later.

So I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: I actually sympathize with Gergg Poppovich and the Spurs on their latest controversy.

For those unaware, last week the Spurs faced the defending champion Heat in Miami in a game that was nationally televised. The Spurs were playing their fourth road game in five days. The Heat had nearly a full week off.

So Poppovich appeared to wave the white flag, sitting out several key players for the game. Tim Duncan, Manu Giunobli and were actually sent home to San Antonio.

NBA czar David Stern was not pleased. Even before the game started, he threatened severe consequences for the Spurs’ actions. Shortly after the Spurs barely lost to the heat, even leaden in the final minute with practically their D-League roster, he slapped a quarter-million dollar fine on the team. He expected his fellow fans to also be outrage that Pop would deprive the TV audience of his best guys; what he got was a number of people siding with the four-time champion coach.

There’s no doubt Stern hates the Spurs, as they’ve prevented his big market teams from ruling supreme while promoting boring basketball no one wants to watch (can’t blame him for disliking the latter). I could go on with a Grassy Knoll theory that he rigged the schedule so a tired Spurs team would get humiliated by his golden boys in South Beach, but this isn’t the place to get on that theory (oops, too late).

But here’s the big problem regardless of who it was benching his players: You want to make sure your teams put their full best lineup out every single game? DON’T FORCE THEM TO PLAY FOUR GAMES IN FOUR NIGHTS IN FOUR DIFFERENT TOWNS.

No one has a problem with players getting days off in baseball; heck the biggest criticism from many Rangers observers this past year was that Ron Washington DIDN’T give his stars enough days off. Basketball isn’t like that, but that’s because everyone assumes they won’t play every day, not even for a small stretch like that. Regardless of how much money they make, basketball is a much more grueling game than baseball, and making one team playing four0in0five play another with a week off is beyond ridiculous.

It could be solved with one simple solution: Less games in the schedule.

The NBA is right up there with the NHL (which is sadly ineligible at the moment) for having one of the most uneventful, pointless regular seasons in U.S. sports. It’s nearly impossible for casual fans to slog through 82 games in six months, especially when there’s almost no importance to finishing first since eighth place gets you into the playoffs. The fact that the season starts in the middle of football season – in which cities like Dallas give the game even less attention than they normally do – doesn’t make things any better.

Simply put, there are too many games for people to care about with little at stake for the six-month regular season. I’ll touch on improving the second of those problems in the future, including why I pick the arbitrary number I’m about to declare. But for now, here it is: Cut the season down to 66 games. It would essentially allow the league to have every team play three times a week with hopefully at least one day off in between every game and still complete the schedule in roughly the same six month time span.

Fewer playoff games would help as well. Not just reducing at least the first round back down to a best of five format, but also less rounds, which of course means less teams qualifying. But again, that’s another discussion for another time.

An old colleague of mine tells me that the main reason football continues to be number one this country is because the small number of games make each one more valuable. I have my debates on THAT being the reason everyone’s so gaga and forgiving toward that sport, fewer NBA games could help draw more attention to its regular season. For now through, ensuring every team gets adequate rest between games would ensure Stern doesn’t have to worry about problems like this again.

And yes, I have a full plan on how the schedule could be realigned to fit this shortened number. Stay tuned.