Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

February 20, 2013

NBA: Mavericks back from break with playoff streak in peril

DALLAS — With or without Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks have virtually the same record this season - a losing one.

If they don't start winning at a pace reminiscent of the three 60-win seasons they've had in the Nowitzki era, the Mavericks are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since the big German's second year in 2000.

But Dallas better be careful weighing all that history, Vince Carter figures.

"I don't think we can board watch as far as the standings are concerned,'' said Carter, who came into the league the same year as Nowitzki. "I think it just drives you crazy. You just go out there and you press, press, press, because you know you need the game. That's already understood anyway.''

It's been understood since the season started. For the second straight year since winning the franchise's first championship, Dallas rebuilt the roster with Nowitzki as the anchor. But this time the Mavericks realized they needed to grab every win they could after they found out he would miss the beginning of the season because of the first knee surgery of his career.

When their star came back after missing 27 games, the Mavericks were in a brutal stretch of their schedule and couldn't find a way to win close games.

Nearly two months later, Dallas (23-29) is still finding ways to lose and entered the All-Star break 4 1/2 games behind Houston for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Mavericks, who play for the first time in a week when Orlando visits on Wednesday night, were 12-15 before Nowitzki returned Dec. 23 against San Antonio, and they're 11-14 since.

"Some of that is guys sharing court time and chemistry and certain guys zigging while the other guy thought he was zagging,'' said Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. "The whole mantra of the first half of the season was, `Hey, let's win our share, let's stay in the hunt, let's get the big German back and see where things take us.''

A lot of that strategy relied on new backcourt mates Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo, who helped Dallas to a 4-1 start before Collison started regressing and teams realized Mayo was the most dangerous scoring threat and started taking him away.

Collison lost his starting job after a particularly bad game in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Mavericks brought in veterans Derek Fisher and Mike James as mentors, and even as replacements in certain situations in case Collison's struggles continued.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle admittedly has been hard on the replacement for Jason Kidd, and Collison has responded by re-establishing himself as the starter.

"It's not about my mood,'' Carlisle said. "It's about us playing well and doing everything we can possibly do to play our best to give ourselves a chance to trend upward. I understand that this job that I'm in is about being demanding and it's about having standards of excellence that are uncompromised. We just haven't been able to sustain, but I still believe we can do it.''

Mayo's biggest problem has been turnovers - he has a team-high 149 - and the issue was never more evident than the last time the Mavericks looked like they finally might be on to something before faltering.

Dallas had won two straight and had a chance to beat East playoff contender Atlanta two games before the break when Mayo stole the ball and was headed for a layup trailing by one in the final minute. He switched hands on the dribble just before he got to the basket, giving Devin Harris a chance to steal it back. Mayo had another turnover on a bad pass when the Mavericks had one last chance to tie.

"It's tough when you look at it now,'' said Nowitzki, whose scoring (15.2) and rebounding (5.7) averages are the lowest since his rookie season. "We've had close losses that could come back and haunt us. Atlanta, we shouldn't have lost. We've had too many of those close games where we've been on the short end of the stick.''

The Mavericks thought they built a playoff contender even after Deron Williams spurned them in free agency, and they still have a chance to prove it assuming center Chris Kaman returns soon from a concussion that has sidelined him for eight games. The other significant offseason addition was Elton Brand, who was picked up in an amnesty claim from Philadelphia.

Carter came to Dallas in the first roster purge last year, when the Mavericks didn't bring back center Tyson Chandler and other important pieces of their title team and got swept in the first round by Oklahoma City. Carter's 10.1-point scoring average last season was the lowest of his career, but he's emerged recently as the biggest scoring threat behind Mayo and Nowitzki.

In the last game before the break, Carter scored 26 and hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter to carry Dallas past Sacramento, another reason the Mavericks probably will end up keeping him and Shawn Marion despite both names being popular in rumors leading to Thursday's trading deadline.

"I don't get caught up in what's being read and if we have a shot or not,'' Carter said. "If we don't believe in the locker room that we have a shot, we won't ever have a shot. It doesn't matter what's said outside the locker room, and I think our guys are pretty confident.''

The playoffs start now for the Mavericks and their 12-year postseason streak.

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0237web.jpg Hrdlicka, Teter pour ‘heart’ into Zebra soccer program

    For the past four years, Claremore High School seniors Katelin Teter and Nick Hrdlicka have represented the ‘heart and soul’ of the Lady Zebra and Zebra soccer programs.
    The soccer duo will join seven other seniors on Friday night for Homecoming against Collinsville at Lantow Field.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • DSC_0014web.jpg 9 straight for Lady Zebras

    Claremore sophomore forward Bailey Steckline got the ‘hat-trick’ plus one Tuesday night in the Lady Zebras’ 10-0 win over Tulsa Memorial at  LaFortune Stadium.
    Steckline tallied two goals in the first half, and added two more in the second to complete her impressive night.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0156web.jpg Tulsa Memorial holds off Zebras, 2-1

    Tulsa Memorial scored a pair of first-half goals  to steal the momentum away from the Claremore Zebras, as well as the 2-1 win Tuesday night in Metro Lakes Conference action at LaFortune Stadium.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0015web.jpg BASEBALL: Whatley, Howe power Zebras past Tahlequah

    Claremore’s Matt Whatley has proven over the past four years that he’s one of the toughest outs in the Metro Lakes Conference.
    On Tuesday, Whatley went 3-for-4 with two singles and a triple while sparking the Zebras to a 12-2 win over Tahlequah in five innings at American Legion Park.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • BASEBALL: Dewey takes pair from Sequoyah

    It’s very difficult to win when you can’t score.
    Class 4A third-ranked Dewey blanked homestanding Sequoyah 7-0 and 2-0 in a district doubleheader on Tuesday, improving to 21-3 with a dominating two-hit pitching performance in the opener and a four-hitter in the nightcap.

    April 18, 2014

  • SOCCER: Sequoyah topples No. 15 Catoosa, 1-0

    Sequoyah boys soccer coach Bob Campbell had one phrase to sum up his feelings following the Eagles’ game with 15th ranked Catoosa at home Tuesday night.
    “We’re in the driver’s seat.’’
    Alex Bourgeois scored late in the first half and Sequoyah made it stand up for a 1-0 victory over the Indians in a showdown for the district lead.

    April 18, 2014

  • Jackson sprints Zebras to 1st place at OBU Relays

    Claremore senior sprinter Tyler Jackson felt the need for speed Wednesday afternoon at the Oklahoma Baptist University High School Invitational.
    Jackson notched a pair of first-place victories in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash to help Claremore earn 130 points for top honors.

    April 18, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Arkansas Tech roughs up ‘Cats

    The Rogers State University baseball team had a disappointing finish in its home finale as No. 12-ranked Arkansas Tech blanked the Hillcats 11-0 Tuesday evening in non-conference action from the Diamond Sports Complex.

    April 18, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Southwest Baptist slips past NSU, 5-3

     The Northeastern State baseball team lost 5-3 to Southwest Baptist Thursday afternoon at Dobson Field.
     
    The RiverHawks (19-22, 15-18 MIAA) held a 3-0 lead early in the contest, but a late rally from the Bearcats (23-18, 19-13 MIAA) and costly errors from the visitors allowed the home team to secure the series-opening triumph.

    April 18, 2014

  • WOMEN'S TENNIS: Conference champion NSU lands top seed in MIAA tourney

    The No. 31-ranked Northeastern State women's tennis team has drawn the top seed in the 2014 MIAA Women's Tennis Championship, the league announced Thursday morning.

    April 18, 2014