Saturday, March 29, 2008

What do the Warriors think?

Don Nelson drafted Devin Harris, but the Golden State coach thinks the Jason Kidd trade made his former team better for the immediate future. Kidd recently turned 35. Harris is 24.

“For a short period of time, they really have improved their team,” Nelson said. “It’s the long term effect, where you’re picking up an older player and lose a younger player, so you’re talking about after three years. But as of right now, I think they probably are a stronger team.”

Warriors forward Al Harrington was asked if trading for Kidd is a reaction to Baron Davis getting the best of Harris in the playoffs.

“Yeah, but I don’t think he can guard Baron either,” Harrington said. “To be honest, when he’s on his game, nobody can guard him. I’m sure that was something they had in their mind, but when Baron is on, put a center on him, and he’ll post you up and do whatever you want to do. We’ll see. It’s going to be a good game.”

Nellie on the Mavs struggling against winning teams: “When I look at those scores, all of them were close, about half of them could have gone either way. The fact that they came up on the short end really doesn’t say anything to me.”

Not getting rewarded

Opponents have taken more free throws than the Mavs in three of the last four games. All three were losses. Jerry Stackhouse doesn’t feel the trend is a result of a lack of aggression.

“We feel we’re attacking and getting bumped and not getting the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “The bonus is huge. When you’re able to be aggressive and just get bumped and go to the free throw line, as opposed to a side out, that’s a chance to put points on the board.”

The Mavs are 34-11 when they shoot the same or more free throws this season. They’re 11-16 otherwise.

Focus stays on the hardwood

OAKLAND – The mental state of the Mavericks is not one of the concerns right now for Avery Johnson. Coming off Thursday’s loss at Denver and with a couple of days to regroup in the San Francisco Bay area, the focus is on basketball.

Not pep talks.

“They play hard,” Johnson said. “They’ve taken a lot and they play hard. They come to play. They do what we ask them to do. We got some good performances and some not good performances. We just can’t have any letdowns in any areas right now.”

Johnson pointed to turnovers and rebounding as the main reasons why a 15-point lead was surrendered in the 118-105 setback to the Nuggets. The Mavs gave the ball away 17 times, six by Jason Kidd and five from Malik Allen, leading to 23 points. Denver grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the second half to enjoy a 9-0 edge in second-chance points after the break.

The Mavs (45-27) resumed practice Saturday at the Warriors’ downtown facility. Golden State, Denver and Dallas are locked in a three-way round-robin battle for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Warriors were in Denver on Saturday. Golden State visits Dallas on Wednesday.

“It’s fun. It’s competitive,” Kidd said. “As a professional you want to be competitive and I got everything that I want. It’s nothing but competitive each night and we are fighting for our lives, just like everybody else is.”

Keep reading and get a preview of Golden State in today’s notebook at mavs.com.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nuggets drop Mavs with strong second half

DENVER – A playoff spot wasn’t lost Thursday night. There’s plenty to be worked out over the final 10 games. But like many of the losses over the last five weeks, the Mavericks will look back at the 118-105 loss to the equally hungry Nuggets as another opportunity lost.

The Mavs (45-27) squandered a 15-point lead and saw their lead over Denver (44-28) drop to one game in the Western Conference standings. A win would have essentially given seventh-place Dallas a four-game cushion over No. 9 Denver when the tiebreaker is factored in.

The Nuggets now own that edge by taking the season series 2-1. Up next is Sunday’s visit to No. 8 Golden State. But before the Mavs and Warriors hook up, Golden State travels to Denver on Saturday. Postseason implications are riding on every game.

“It is what it is,” Jerry Stackhouse said. “We just have to keep playing and worry about the next game. This one is over. If it comes down to the last game and the tiebreaker, we can only look at ourselves.”

Playing for the second time without Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs were in control going into the third quarter. The step-up-by-committee approach was working, with Josh Howard, Jason Kidd and Stackhouse leading the way.

It was all Denver after the break, as the Mavs stopped attacking the basket and the Nuggets started. Carmelo Anthony (32 points) and Allen Iverson (31) ignited the rally, as the home team outscored Dallas 58-35 in the second half.

“They just got some momentum and started making their shots,” Avery Johnson said. “We didn’t come out really all that well in the third quarter.”

Read the rest of this story and get more on the game at mavs.com.

Karl on the Mavs sans Dirk

Not having Dirk Nowitzki obviously changes the Mavs. Nuggets coach George Karl had a few ideas on what those changes are.

“They might be a little better defensively,” he said. “They’re running more without Dirk.”

As far as the offense, Karl said: “The window of success will open for Howard and Stackhouse and Jason [Kidd].”

Can’t run with the Nuggets

The Nuggets are the third-highest scoring team in the league. Denver scored 168 in regulation not that long ago. Obviously, the Nuggets like to run.

So do the Mavs, especially under Jason Kidd. But they don’t want to get into a track meet and suckered into Denver’s defense-be-damned approach.

“When we’re playing at our pace, we can be a pretty good team,” Avery Johnson said. “We don’t want to get into that helter skelter-type game that they like to play, because they’re a running team and they love to get out and run. We don’t think we can be successful playing their game. We have an idea of what type of pace we need.”

Kidd added: “We have to play at our pace. That doesn’t mean we’re going to walk the ball up. We’ve got to take advantage of when we can get layups. But the biggest thing is we have to take care of the ball because both teams thrive on going for steals, getting their hands on balls, starting their transition and getting a lot of fastbreak points and 3-point opportunities.”

There is a fine line between being aggressive and careless for Kidd. He walks that line.

“I play my best sometimes if I kick the ball into the stands being aggressive,” Kidd said. “Some of the turnovers were just the anticipation of guys maybe being in a spot that I thought they would be in and then going the other way. That falls on my shoulders. I have to protect the ball.”

Won in Denver before without Dirk

The Mavs have been here before without Dirk Nowitzki. It happened last season on the last day of 2006 when Nowitzki came down ill and couldn’t leave the locker room.

The Nuggets had traded for Allen Iverson about two weeks prior to that game, though Carmelo Anthony was out serving his suspension for his part in that infamous New York-Denver melee. The Mavs pulled out a hard-fought 89-85 win on Dec. 31, 2006 behind 28 points and 17 rebounds from Josh Howard.

A similar performance from Howard and Co. would serve the Mavs’ postseason hopes well. A win tonight essentially gives Dallas a four-game lead on ninth-place Denver with 10 games left. (It’s three games in the standings plus the tiebreaker edge.) Two of the next games are against eighth-place Golden State.

“I’m looking at it as make-or-break,” Howard said today. “The teams we’re fighting for those final two spots, we’re going to face. We’ve got Golden State twice and Denver. These are tough games. We have to be ready for them.”

Nene could return tonight

The Pepsi Can already promises to be electric tonight, but the Nuggets could get an extra charge with the possible return of Nene. The bruising power forward has missed most of the season after undergoing cancer surgery to remove a tumor.

“That’s a pretty great story in terms of all he’s been through,” Avery Johnson said today after shootaround.

Nene surprised his teammates this week when he took the court for scrimmage and now he appears ready to take the next step. Though he likely won’t play more than five minutes, expect the emotional boost for his teammates to last much longer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Don’t quit your day job, Dirk

Upbeat and looking dapper in beige, Dirk Nowitzki moonlighted on the TV broadcast last night with Mark Followill, Brad Davis and Laura Green. Nowitzki took some questions, offered some commentary and goofed off during an earpiece malfunction.

Avery Johnson offered this up today with a smile when asked to critique Dirk’s performance.

“When I’m watching film, the one thing I’ve learned as a coach is do not listen to the commentary, so it’s always on the mute button,” Johnson said. “But if I knew it was Dirk, I would have listened.”

At least one teammate heard it. Jason Terry quipped: “I don’t think he’s got a job after basketball. Leave that to me.”

Opportunity sits before the Mavs

The adjectives are bandied about in sports all the time, regardless of time or place. Critical. Pivotal. Must-have. Statement. We’ve all heard those words preceding the word “game” plenty of times.

The do-or-die element to games that really aren’t do-or-die is just part of the deal. How many times can a team play the “biggest” game of the season? How many stretches in the schedule “define” a team?

Well, this isn’t a diatribe against that line of thinking. In certain cases, it’s spot on. That’s why we have clich├ęs. They’re often true. The Mavericks are floating in that boat.

Without being overly dramatic – we’ve leave that to Mark Followill, Chuck Cooperstein and Bob Ortegel – this is it. Whether the Mavs head to the postseason for the eighth straight year will largely depend on what happens in the next four games … without Dirk Nowitzki.

Sure, it’s not the end-all. But facing their two closest pursuers in the Western Conference playoff chase three times in week with tiebreaker implications on the line can’t be overstated. The fun begins Thursday night at Denver, currently the ninth of nine teams in the postseason chase.

“We predicted this way back in January,” Avery Johnson said Wednesday. “There can be a shifting and a swinging in the standings. Nothing’s really decided yet, so with 10, 11, 12 games for some teams left, I think there’s still great opportunities out there and especially for us.”

Read the rest of this story and get a Denver preview in today’s notebook at mavs.com.

Dirk doesn’t make road trip ... for now

Dirk Nowitzki didn’t make the road trip that left today for tomorrow’s game at Denver. He remained in Dallas to work with assistant trainer Dionne Calhoun in the HydroWorx pool.

Nowitzki is working on mechanics and increased weight-bearing activities. Yes, a little technical, but that’s what they’re doing.

There still is no timetable set for his return. The trek continues at Golden State (Sunday) and LA Clippers (Monday).

“He’s actually walking around pretty good, so we want to just keep him moving in the right direction,” Avery Johnson said. “If we get a miracle and he meets us at the end of the trip, fine. But if not, we’ll just plan on seeing him when we get back.”

Mavs-Nuggets Watch Party

What: Mavs vs. Nuggets Watch Party at 8.0 in Downtown Fort Worth

When: Thursday, March 27, 2008, 6:00 p.m. Tip off is set for 7:00 p.m.

Where: 8.0 Sundance Square, 111 East 3rd Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102

More Info: 8.0 will be hosting a Mavs/Nuggets watch party tomorrow night in conjunction with Mavs Fort Worth Spirit Week. The party will get started at 6:00 p.m., one hour before tip off at 7:00 p.m. In attendance will be the Mavs Dancers, Mavs ManiAACs, and the Mavs Street Team, and giveaways will include Mavs tickets and autographed merchandise.

Notables from 103-90 win vs. Clippers

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas used a 12-2 run over the last 4:04 of the 3rd quarter to secure an 82-68 lead going into the final period.

QUICK HITS
• Josh Howard recorded his 3rd 30-point game of the season. Tonight, he scored 32 on 8-22 FGs, 1-5 3FGs, 15-15 FTs. His 15-15 FTs mark the most makes without a miss this season (previous was Dirk Nowitzki, 13-13 FTs, vs. MIN, 11/28/07).
• Howard scored 18 3rd quarter points – his highest scoring output in any quarter this season. His previous high was 16 (4th) vs. UTA (12/8/07).
• Erick Dampier had a double-double in the 1st half with 12 points (6-10 FGs) and 12 rebounds (6 DR). It’s his 5th double-double of the season (4-1 record). He finished the game with 19 points and a season-high tying 17 rebounds.
• The Mavericks started their 20th lineup tonight. Malik Allen started his first game as a Mav along with the usual starting crew of late – Howard, Dampier, Stackhouse, Kidd.
• Allen tied his season-high with 9 rebounds (done 4 times).
• Jerry Stackhouse recorded his 6th 20-point game of the season (20 points on 9-15 FGs, 2-5 3FGs). The Mavs improve to 5-1 when he accomplishes the feat.
• The Clippers had 15 assists as they turned over the ball 16 times. The Mavs improve to 12-0 when their opponent has more turnovers than assists.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,207 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 272 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 309 games including the postseason. Dallas currently owns the longest running sellout streak in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings previously held the streak but failed to sellout their home opener this season. The Mavs are now ranked #10 on the all-time NBA sellout streak list.

Life without Nowitzki opens with win

DALLAS, March 25 (AP) -- Life without Dirk Nowitzki started quite nicely for the Dallas Mavericks.

Josh Howard scored 32 points, Jerry Stackhouse had 20, Erick Dampier had 19 points and 17 rebounds and Jason Kidd neared a triple-double, lifting the Mavs past the Los Angeles Clippers 103-90 on Tuesday night.

OK, so it was only the Clippers. Still, Dallas needed something to go right after dropping three straight games and losing its leading scorer and rebounder to a sprained ankle and knee. And this kind of team-wide effort could serve as a blueprint for how they hope to make up for Nowitzki's absence down the stretch.

"If everyone goes up four or five points, that'll cover it,'' Howard said.

Howard was an All-Star last season and was the team's top scorer for the early part of this season, but he's been fighting through injuries and learning to play with Kidd. This was easily his best game since the All-Star point guard arrived.

It didn't start that way, with Howard going 2-of-11 and getting to the line only once in the first half. Dampier was the early star, getting 12 points and 12 rebounds over the first two quarters.

"Damp obviously was very inspired,'' coach Avery Johnson said. "We need him to do what he did tonight, not necessarily the numbers but being aggressive going to the basket.''

But in the third quarter Dallas was up only 60-58 and in need of a Nowitzki-like surge. Howard provided it, scoring 20 of the team's next 26 points, putting them up by 16 early in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks stretched it out enough that Johnson emptied the bench in the final few minutes.

Read the rest of this game story and additional coverage at nba.com.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Avery: “Play like it’s our last game”

The schedule says 12 games remain, starting tonight with the Clippers visiting American Airlines Center. Considering the indefinite loss of Dirk Nowitzki and the three-game losing streak and the playoff situation, times appear desperate.

If there was ever a time of urgency, this is it.

“We’re staying together,” Avery Johnson said today. “Nobody has lost any hope. Guys are very positive, but at the same time we want them to understand that this is a critical time of the season.

“We’ve got to play like it’s our last game. I haven’t seen that as much as I wanted to. This is the last game. We don’t have 11 more games. We’ve got to play it like it’s our last game. I think once we do that I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Johnson can’t complain with the defensive focus lately – Boston and San Antonio combined to shoot less than 34 percent. Putting the ball in the basket has been another issue.

There hasn’t been just one breakdown offensively, so getting it fixed involves a total team effort. Johnson talked about getting more easy baskets on the break, guards hitting the boards, better execution in the halfcourt, attacking the basket more and getting to the line.

“The way we’re going to be able to dictate how we handle this game is by hustling the whole game, trying to stay away from the little mistakes we make from time to time, move the basketball and really be strong with the ball,” Johnson said.

Nice job Tux & Tennies staff

I didn’t want the following to get lost in all the hoopla yesterday, so I’ll take a little chunk out of this cyberspace today to acknowledge the excellent work done by the team’s community relations staff in helping organize the 4th Annual Tux & Tennies Gala this past Friday.

Pictured above (L-R) are Mavericks Foundation president Terdema Ussery, along with the community relations staff of Gina Calvert, Jennifer Burkett, Jessica Hunt and Matt Miller. They, of course, didn’t put on the wonderful evening alone. There are plenty of other volunteers that deserve credit, plus the generosity of those who attended the gala.

When I think about the time and effort put into this worthwhile event, it makes me tired. So you can imagine how that crew feels. If you see them out and about, pat ’em on the back. Again, they did a great job and if you want to read about the latest Tux & Tennies, click here at mavs.com.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Considering the alternative

Though no one wants to consider this alternative, there is at least one “positive” to missing the playoffs. The Mavs get their first round draft choice back from New Jersey and will take part in the lottery.

The chances of landing a top three pick are slim, but the selection would be no worse than 14. Again, no one wants to think about gloom-and-doom possibilities.

“I’m not thinking about all that,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We’re in the middle of the playoff hunt, as of now we’re still in the playoffs, so I don’t want to even think we’re not going to make the playoffs. I’m going to ice my butt off for the next couple of days and hopefully I can be out there as soon as I can.”

So can the Mavs make the playoffs without Nowitzki?

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I think in this league anything is possible. Everything is so tight, but if we rally together, sometimes a team comes closer together when a player goes down. We’ll see what happens, but I’m confident in the guys and we’ll go from there.”

Needing more from Kidd

Jason Kidd realizes he needs to step up. The point guard isn’t going to make up Nowitzki’s offensive production alone – scoring isn’t one of Kidd’s strengths – but he can become more aggressive on the offensive end.

Kidd has scored just 15 in the last four games, an average of 3.75. Teams are daring Kidd on the perimeter and, so far, he has yet to make them pay consistently.

“They’re going to play me to shoot first,” Kidd said. “I have to be aggressive if they’re going to give me the shot. I’ve got to take it. I’ve got to stop thinking and relax.”

Kidd did take 10 shots Sunday against the Spurs, including five from beyond the arc. He made just three overall and one 3-pointer.

“He got a couple of good looks and unfortunately they just didn’t fall,” Avery Johnson said. “He’s got to continue to be aggressive and hopefully it will change. I think when you’ve been in the league as long as he has, his confidence is always going to be high.

“It’s a matter of getting in and getting a few more balls to fall, whether it’s some of his layups or some of his threes.”

Nowitzki out for immediate future

Dirk Nowitzki is out for at least the next week, and possibly longer, though no official timetable has been set for his return. MRI tests confirmed a moderate left high ankle and mild left knee sprain for the reigning MVP.

“Every one of those types of injuries heals differently,” Avery Johnson said Monday after practice. “We’re just hoping that we catch a break and his heals pretty soon, but right now Dirk’s not coming back and that’s the way we’ve got to look at it. In the meantime we’ve got to have some really good efforts from the whole team.”

Nowitzki was injured in Sunday’s loss to San Antonio at the 3:19 mark of the third quarter. He had just blocked the shot of Ime Udoka before his left leg buckled under the Spurs forward. The seven-time All Star is currently walking in a protective boot without crutches.

“It was really an awkward and unfortunate play,” Nowitzki said. “My leg kind of got caught in the wrong place, so it’s just a little disappointing now, but the good thing is it could have been a lot worse. I was really lucky. Something more could have happened to my knee or my leg could have been broken, so I think this is the best-case scenario.”

Nowitzki is on pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication. He was up every two hours Sunday night icing the knee. Nowitzki has traditionally been a quick healer, but, as he freely admits, high ankle and knee sprains are uncharted territory.

“I don’t really have any experience with this,” he said. “This is fairly new to me, and with the knee, I never really had a knee problem or a sprained knee before. I’m just going to take it day-by-day. The first 48 hours are important.”

As for the timetable, Nowitzki echoed the team’s assessment: “I really don’t know how long it’s going to take. A week, two weeks, I really have no idea.”

The Mavs return to action Tuesday against the Clippers at home and only 12 games remain in the regular season, which ends April 16. The Mavs currently sit seventh in the Western Conference and have road games coming up at playoff contenders Denver (Thursday) and Golden State (Sunday).

“Looking at the tight playoff picture, every game hurts to sit out,” Nowitzki said. “This is probably the most painful time to miss games, so that’s very discouraging. Like I said, I’m trying to see a positive and it could have been a lot worse. It could have been a season-ending injury or even career-ending.”

Read the rest of this story and get a Clippers preview at mavs.com.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Moving on if Dirk is down

Whether or not the Mavericks are without Dirk Nowitzki for any period of time, the team knows that one man isn’t going to make up the difference.

“The whole team is going to have to step up,” Josh Howard said. “That’s our leader, that’s our go-to guy. And with him being out, it’s going to have to be a team effort now.”

Nowitzki suffered a lower left leg injury with at the 3:19 mark in the third period after blocking the shot of Spurs forward Ime Udoka. The defending MVP didn’t return to the game and will be re-evaluated by team doctors Monday.

“I fell awkwardly and my left leg got caught underneath of me,” Nowitzki said. “I am going to get re-evaluated in the morning and I hope to have more information then.”

Nowitzki has had plenty of practice dealing with ankle sprains over the course of his career, though he hasn’t missed a game this season due to injury. He came into Sunday averaging team highs in points (23.7) and rebounds (8.8), though his impact goes beyond numbers.

If he’s out, it leaves a significant void.

“We all have to pick it up and do a little more,” Jason Kidd said.

Jerry Stackhouse said: “It’s a collective effort. When we have full strength, we still think it’s a collective effort. Obviously we feel we have guys that we can go to in certain situations in games. It’s pretty much we ride the hot hand.”

Losing the team’s unquestioned leader against San Antonio was another blow on the current homestand that ends Tuesday with the Clippers. The Mavs hoped to build on their momentum against three of the league’s top teams in the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs.

“I hadn’t been on a team in long time that lost three games in row and here we are right now,” Stackhouse said. “If there is a silver lining in it, we’re still in the playoffs and we’ve still got time – time to right the ship before the postseason starts.

“I don’t think we want to limp into the playoffs where we are right now. We want to try to find some semblance of ourselves and what we think is a winning brand of basketball.”

Missing the playoffs isn’t a thought the Mavs are even entertaining right now.

“We are only concerned about playing the Clippers,” Avery Johnson said. “And I think if we can win our share of games, we’ll be in good position. We haven’t won any games here this week. Not only losing three in a row, whether it’s at home or on the road, is not a good place to be.

“We’ll talk to them again and pick them up. Hopefully, they’ll come into practice tomorrow with a renewed sense of optimism knowing that the season is not over.”

Notables from 88-81 loss vs. Spurs

TODAY’S KEY RUN: San Antonio used a 23-4 run over the last 6:11 of the 3rd quarter to take a 65-58 lead into the final period.

QUICK HITS
• Dirk Nowitzki left today’s game at the 3:18 mark of the 3rd quarter after suffering a injury to his lower left leg. He did not return and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Before the injury, he had 11 points (4-13 FGs, 0-1 3FGs, 3-3 FTs), 7 rebounds, 4 assists in 26 minutes.
• In the 1st quarter, the Mavs held the Spurs to an opponent season-low (for any quarter) 18.2% FG (4-22 FGs). The Spurs scored 15 points in the period.
• Dating back to vs. GS (1/2), Jerry Stackhouse has hit 48-50 FTs (96.0%).
• The Spurs clinched the season series for the 1st time since 2004-05. Last season, Dallas won the series 3-1. In 2005-06, the clubs split their four games, 2-2.
• The Mavs are 0-2 in their last 2 games despite holding their opponents to 33.7% (60-178 FGs) from the floor.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,411 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 271 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 308 games including the postseason. Dallas currently owns the longest running sellout streak in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings previously held the streak but failed to sellout their home opener this season. The Mavs are now ranked #10 on the all-time NBA sellout streak list.

Nowitzki injury update

The team releaased the following: In today’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, Dirk Nowitzki suffered an injury to his lower left leg at the 3:19 mark in the third period. The injury occurred when Nowitzki got tangled up with the Spurs’ Ime Udoka after blocking his shot. He did not return to the game. Nowitzki will be re-evaluated on Monday, March 24.

“I fell awkwardly and my left leg got caught underneath of me,” Nowitzki said. “I am going to get re-evaluated in the morning and I hope to have more information then.”

Spurs get the best of Mavs sans Dirk

This one hurts in more ways than one. The Mavericks not only lost their third in a row to San Antonio and overall, but Dirk Nowitzki went down with a lower leg injury in the third quarter and didn’t return.

San Antonio rallied from 12 points down to prevail 88-81 before an Easter Sunday sellout crowd of 20,411 at American Airlines Center. Nowitzki’s status is uncertain and the reigning MVP will be re-evaluated Monday.

Nowitzki’s health is just another concern thrown on top of the pile for the Mavs, who dropped to 44-26 and 0-3 on the current four-game homestand. Dallas returned home after five straight wins only to fall to the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs in succession.

“We’ve got to find a way to win some games,” said Jerry Stackhouse, the team’s leading scorer with 19. “We played three good teams and we were doing some good things during the course of the games. We just haven’t been able to close it out.

“Obviously it was a blow losing Dirk there for the fourth quarter, but I thought we still competed and had some opportunities that just didn’t go our way. We had a pretty good handle on the game there for a while and then all of a sudden, they make a couple shots here, a couple shots there and got back in the game and a couple loose balls.”

Before Nowitzki went down, the Mavs seemed in position to snap the skid. Buoyed by their defense, Dallas’ lead reached a dozen on a couple of occasions – the last at 54-42 midway through the third period. As the Spurs turned up their defensive intensity, the Mavs got away from attacking the basket.

“Don’t settle for jump shots,” Josh Howard said. “Coach has been preaching that all year. We need to stay aggressive. I think those two things are the main focus right now.”

Read the rest of this game story and get more coverage at mavs.com.

Tempers flare after Stack-Manu collide

The intensity of this rivalry boiled over late in the third – it seems to happen at some point every time these teams meet – when Jerry Stackhouse and Manu Ginobili locked horns and fell to the court in a heap.

They were each assessed fouls, but the Mavs were also hit with technicals on Stackhouse and then on Avery Johnson. The Spurs finished the quarter with a 23-4 run to take a 65-58 lead going into the fourth.

The sequence was vintage Ginobili in Stackhouse’s view.

“He flails and falls and does a whole lot of B.S. throughout the course of the game, and it’s always the second guy who gets called,” said Stackhouse, who was ejected late in the fourth. “I think that was what they saw. It’s nothing new with him.”

Nowitzki out with leg injury

Dirk Nowitzki went down hard late in the third quarter and needed assistance on the way to the locker room. The defending MVP had just blocked Ime Udoka’s layup attempt before his left leg buckled under the reserve San Antonio forward.

Nowitzki was on the floor for several minutes being attended to by trainer Casey Smith and team doctor Tarek Souryal. Juwan Howard and Malik Allen helped Nowitzki off the court, but Nowitzki did walk into the X-ray room under his own power.

As of now, the word is that Nowitzki had a lower leg injury and he is out for the rest of the game. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. The Mavs host the Clippers on Tuesday.

Pop: There will be no upsets

Some argue the home-court edge isn’t as important in the Western Conference this postseason. Some think it’s more so considering how tightly bunched everyone is.

Coaches will take any edge and an extra game at home is a pretty nice one.

“Given a choice, obviously any team will take home court,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said today. “You’d be foolish not to, but the best team wins the championship every year and wins on the road, so it’s probably not that big of a deal, especially this year.”

OK, that doesn’t settle much. San Antonio’s skipper was clear about another subject once the pairings are set.

“There will be what you call ‘upset’ in the playoffs and you will be wrong,” Pop said to the assembled media. “There won’t be any upsets because there is no eighth seed and there is no first seed. Everybody is just as good as the other person – just beating each other’s brains out.

“We’re two games out of first and two games out of eighth. You have to stop and think how can that be? That’s impossible and it’s the same for everybody.”
In other Spurs’ news, Robert Horry is out with a bum knee.