The facts: Dallas improved to 2-8 on the year in overtime games with a 109-102 victory over the Clippers last night. While OJ Mayo forced overtime with an improbable drive to the basket, it was Dirk Nowitziki who put the team on his back with several huge shots down the stretch on the way to a vintage 33-point and nine-rebound showcase.
The Good Stuff: The Lakers have lost three in a row. Dallas has won three in a row. What’s this all mean? Well, for one, my declaration of leaving the Mavs dead in the water was wrong; a surprise to exactly zero people. And what do ya know now? One game separates the Lakers, Mavs and Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot.
April Showers, May…Vacations?: March isn’t over yet, but here’s the thing. If you’re a fan of the Lakers, Mavericks and the seven people outside of Utah who are Jazz fans, word of advice – stock up on alcohol. You’re going to need it in massive amounts. Take my brief (probably off-base in about two weeks) synopsis on each squad currently fighting for dear life heading into April for the West’s final playoff spot.
1. Their first four games are all on the road – @Lakers, @Denver, @Sacramento and @Portland. If they can somehow finagle that into a 3-1 start, this could get mighty interesting.
2. For the love of Dirk’s awesome beard, please, please, please, I come in all humbleness to wipe my tears on the garment of Little Baby Jesus’ cloak…NO ONE ON DALLAS SHOULD TAKE THE FINAL SHOT EXCEPT DIRK.
3. No, seriously, someone tell Dirk to keep that beard. He looks like a seven-foot Rocky Balboa training in the mountains for an upcoming bout with Ivan Drago.*
1. Play inside-out feeding Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson – both of whom won’t be in Utah next year – and good things will come.
2. There’s no person on Earth that needs the Jazz to close out March and hit April with a left hand uppercut more than head coach Ty Corbin. What goodwill they established prior to the All Star break has evaporated and it’s not like coaches have the greatest job security in the world anyway; especially one following Jerry Sloan.
3. Don’t play inside-out. Seriously, don’t.
1. Well, the Lakers did it. Metta World Peace has lateral meniscus tear in his knee meaning all five starters will have missed time at some point this year due to injury.
2. How lucky did the Lakers get to have this 213-friendly schedule? It reads something like so – Dallas (extremely, extremely important), Memphis, @Clippers, New Orleans, @Portland, Golden State, San Antonio, Houston.
With seven of those eight contests in Staples, there are winnable games on April’s schedule; especially considering Marc Gasol’s gone and we’re still unsure if the Pelicans have figured out which basket to guard late in the fourth. And depending by the time the Spurs come to town, Pop may decide to sit Parker, Duncan, Ginobli, Leonard and Green – which somehow, someway doesn’t guarantee an easy victory either. This leads me to my last point.
3. Despite me being done with trying to figure out the Lakers, circles your calenders for April 17 at home vs. Houston; the last game of the season. Even if the Rockets have already punched their ticket to playoffs by then, there’s no way McHale sits his stars out in this game; not if there’s an opportunity to send the Lakers home. Not only his present Western Conference foe, but the team he battled to the brink of sheer hatred in the ’80s as a member of the Celtics. You don’t think players like Harden, Lin and Parsons wouldn’t want that honor, too?
And IF the Lakers enter this game in a “win or go home for the summer” type set up? Kobe and Dwight gunning for the sheer respect of their names vs. a young Houston squad with no fear whatsoever? Oh yeah, April 17 will be a date to remember.
Enjoy April folks. Lord knows I will.
* – We miss you heavyweight boxing. Anytime you’re ready to come back and be interesting, we’ll all be waiting on you.