The Mavs did their familiar thing on Sunday in LA in a 120-106 victory: they managed minutes, let the game get too close for a moment there, and ultimately beat the hapless Lakers yet again for a streak I gleefully hope never ends.
Meanwhile the Spurs did their all-too-familiar thing, too: Danny Green broke their single-season team 3-point record, Tim Duncan moved past Garnett for 14th on the career scoring list, and Kawhi Leonard kept reaching for the next-level baton. Oh, and the Spurs earned their 11th straight victory and 21st in 24 games, beating the Suns, and jetted into a favorable position in the West … and you can almost book this: next weekend, the Mavs will jet to the Alamo City for Game 1 of Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs.
The simplest who’s-who explanation for the West as it relates to Dallas: the Spurs have just one game left, at New Orleans, tonight. They are jumbled with Houston and the Clippers right now, but … Pop should win that game, and then will be rested and ready and rolling, working a dozen-game win streak and a 22-wins-in-25-outings streak (if the Spurs somehow lose – and New Orleans will certainly give it its all because a Pelicans win means they get the No. 8 seed over OKC – the window would open for Houston or the Clippers to play Dallas in Round 1.)
Will Dallas be rested? They should be. Coach Rick Carlisle sent a trio of the fellas (Dirk, Tyson and Monta) home from LA, taking Cuban’s private jet straight to DFW thus avoiding the wear-and-tear of tonight’s all-but-meaningless visit to Utah.
Will Dallas be ready? The Mavs have had ample time to nurse their “funkiness,” (a word Cuban used to describe Monta’s decision to physically disengage from the rest of the guys on Friday) to focus on what matters and to familiarize themselves with each other via the integration of Rondo and Ama’re.
Some things are starting to click around here. In Rondo’s last seven games he’s averaging 10.7 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 52.4-percent shooting and 60 percent on 3’s. Tyson Chandler looks to be in springy playoff form heading into the final stretch of the season. Nowitzki came into LA on a six-game run during which he’d averaged 20 points and 52.5 percent shooting. On Sunday, he participated in 28 very precisely calculated minutes, shooting 5-of-10 for 16 points.
The defense is still too-often sieve-like and Chandler Parsons’ knee is still balky, and not even a “homer” of my magnitude can pretend that Monta’s moodiness isn’t troublesome. But this 49-win team has a crack at getting to the 50 mark tonight with Portland in town for the regular-season finale before we get to what really matters, a postseason in which the likely opponent is familiar … and, because of how good they are, contemptible.
“It’s always great for a franchise to get 50 wins, especially in a tough Western Conference,” said Dirk. “But if you ask me, it’s obviously more important to be healthy and get some more guys rested than to go for a 50-game winning season.”