NBA PM: Mavericks Make Push for 8th Seed
Dallas was trailing the West’s eighth seed by almost 10 games and they had the most difficult remaining schedule of any team in the playoff hunt. ESPN’s Hollinger Playoff Odds, which simulates a team’s final stretch 5,000 times and projects the most likely outcome, gave Dallas less than a five percent chance of qualifying for the postseason. It seemed that the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz would battle for the eighth seed while the Mavericks’ streak of 12 consecutive playoff berths would come to an end.
However, Dallas refused to accept they were lottery-bound and fought their way back into the mix in the West. The Lakers and Jazz have struggled recently, with neither team running away with the conference’s final playoff spot. That opened the door for the Mavs, the hottest of the three teams. Now, Dallas is just one game behind the Lakers for the eighth seed, and they’ll play L.A. on April 2.
Dallas is 10-4 in March and they’ve won three straight games. After finishing with more losses than wins in the first three months of the season, they’ve had two winning months in a row. In early February, the team agreed not to shave their beards until they reached .500. For awhile, it seemed like the group wouldn’t be able to shave until next season. However, after last night’s overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavs are within one game of the .500 mark. Dallas struggled early in the season because they were trying to get so many new players acclimated (only five players returned from last year’s team) and they were dealing with injuries (they’ve started 15 different players this season). However, they’ve finally found a rhythm in recent weeks.
“It’s been a long battle, an uphill battle,” Nowitzki said. “It feels like the last time we were one game under .500 was in November, so it’s been a long time. We’ve been fighting to get to this point, but honestly I feel like we’re playing our best basketball. I feel better than when I first came back, the boys are playing well and we’re playing better off of each other. It’s a good time to play your best basketball, so we’ll see how far we can take it. We’re going to play hard and see what happens.”
Nowitzki has certainly been playing well as of late. He had a season-high 33 points in the win over the Clippers on Tuesday night, and he’s averaging nearly 20 points and nine rebounds per game after the All-Star break. It’s easy to tell that the playoffs are right around the corner, because Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeaway is falling and he’s starting to look unstoppable. Other Mavericks such as Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, O.J. Mayo and Mike James have also stepped up and filled their roles. While the Lakers and Jazz have been struggling, the Mavericks have been winning games, gaining confidence and building momentum.
“We’ve fought so hard to get to this point and to give ourselves our chance, and now that we’ve given ourselves a chance we want to finish the job,” Carter said. “I think it’s right there for the taking. We still have enough time left to do so. We just have to take care of business one game at a time.”
“We’re fighters,” O.J. Mayo added. “We’re going to keep coming and keep coming until the fat lady sings. We’re going to keep coming, keep trying to get better, keep trying to win ballgames and give ourselves a shot.”
Perhaps most impressive about Dallas’ recent success is that they’ve been winning against very good teams. Of their 10 wins in March, seven have come against teams with at least a .500 record. To make the playoffs, they’ll have to continue beating good teams because they have seven games remaining against opponents with a .500 record or better, which is two more than the Lakers and Jazz. However, with the way the Mavericks have been playing as of late (coupled with the way the Lakers and Jazz have been struggling), it’s not hard to imagine them grabbing the eighth seed.
“We need to take care of business and continue to win games,” Carter said. “We’re going to beat the teams that we need to beat. I think that will help us jump over [teams] and move into the position that we need to be in. We can standing-watch all we want, but if we’re not winning games it doesn’t matter. We just have to keep winning and keep winning, and hopefully that’s good enough.”
“We’re just going to let it rip and try to win the next game,” Nowitzki said. “We’re not going to get carried away or look too far ahead, not get happy with the win and see if we can make a serious push down the stretch.”
The Mavericks are treating every game as a must-win from here on out.
“We’ve got  games left and I’d be lying to you if I told you they weren’t all must-win games, considering where we’re at,” Carlisle said. “The urgency is there. The opponents that we’re playing are very good so we’re going to have be really good and really right. It’s a great challenge. This is our playoffs right now, to have a chance to get to the [actual] playoffs. We’re excited.”
Dallas is used to being a playoff team and they’re determined to keep their postseason streak alive.
“The motivation is clear: This has been a winning organization for a long time, and we want [our record] to be well above the winning side and we want to get to the playoffs,” Carlisle said. “I’ve been asked many times about looking at the standings. I don’t look at the standings. I study the next opponent, that’s all. We all got to focus on what’s right here in front of our noses and not look out into the wild blue yonder. If we do that, we’ll win our share and if we’re supposed to get in, we’ll get in.
“The spirit is high. It’s really good. The guys are playing for something. They’re playing to get back on the winning side. They’re playing for a playoff spot. There’s a lot of pride in the locker room. I’m proud to be a part of this group.”
HOOPSWORLD TV: Florida Gulf Coast’s Historic Run
Florida Gulf Coast made history over the weekend when they became the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 in NCAA Tournament history.
There have been some amazing Cinderella stories through the years, but the Eagles may be the best one of all-time. This is a team that’s in its second year of Division-I basketball, yet they took down Georgetown and San Diego State and are three wins away from a national championship.
They also have plenty of characters who have captivated the nation during their incredible run. Head coach Andy Enfeld is married to a former supermodel and is a self-made millionaire who co-developed Tractmanager, an information management system for health care contracts, before becoming a coach. Shooting guard Sherwood Brown, the team’s leading scorer, was a walk-on who wasn’t recruited out of high school. Point guard Brett Comer is the free-styling distributor who dedicated this tournament run to his late father. Bernard Thompson, Chase Fieler and Eric McKnight are the three highflyers behind the “Dunk City” moniker, which the city of Fort Myers has embraced and added to their official website.
The Eagles were 26-10 during the regular season, with bad losses to teams like Lipscomb, Stetson and East Tennessee State. They were also drubbed by teams like Duke and VCU during the regular season. Their only impressive win during the regular season –and only thing that could’ve foreshadowed this run – was a win against Miami in early November. The Eagles are the perfect example of a team that started playing their best basketball at the end of the season, getting hot at the right time. They won their last five regular season games and entered the big dance with confidence. That swagger was on display against the Hoyas and Aztecs, as they dunked and danced their way into America’s hearts.
Now, Florida Gulf Coast will take on Florida with the winner advancing to the Elite 8. The last team prior to Florida Gulf Coast to win at least two games in their first tournament appearance was Florida back in 1987. The Eagles will try to continue their historic run against the Gators on Friday at 9:57 p.m. ET.
Yannis Koutroupis and I discuss Florida Gulf Coast’s run and whether or not it will continue:
Jerome Jordan an Option for Memphis Grizzlies?
The Memphis Grizzlies’ frontcourt is depleted right now with Marc Gasol sidelined due to an abdominal tear, and the team has limited options to fill the void. The trade deadline past last month and the free agent pool has all but dried up, which means Memphis’ best option may be to look at the NBA D-League.
If Memphis wants to bring in a big man while Gasol is out, they could sign Jerome Jordan to a 10-day contract. The 26-year-old is currently rated as the top center prospect in the D-League. Jordan plays for the Los Angeles D-Fenders and is currently averaging 12.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
Jordan’s last stint in the NBA was with the New York Knicks during the 2011-12 season, when he played 21 games as a reserve for the Knicks. Over the offseason, New York traded Jordan to the Houston Rockets as part of the Marcus Camby trade, but the Rockets waived him shortly after.
Jordan has spent the season proving himself in the D-League and he could serve as a short-term answer for Memphis. The Grizzlies started Darrell Arthur in place of Gasol in Monday’s loss against the Washington Wizards and played small for almost the entire game. Dexter Pittman, the only true center outside of Gasol on Memphis’ roster, played just one minute on Wednesday. The Wizards scored 40 points in the paint on Wednesday and Emeka Okafor had 21 points on 9-15 shooting from the field.
Other center prospects in the D-League include Henry Sims, Hassan Whiteside, Vernon Macklin, Hilton Armstrong, Keith Benson, Brian Butch, Mickell Gladness, Solomon Alabi and Jarrid Famous.
UPDATE: The Memphis Grizzlies have signed Keyon Dooling for the remainder of the season, according to Peter Vecsey.
March Madness Coverage
We have previewed every single game and you can find all of the previews here. They have in-depth stats, players to watch and a poll so that you can vote on which team will win. Once it tips off, feel free to discuss the game in the comment section.
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