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Game of the Night: Oklahoma City Thunder Vs. Dallas Mavericks

With just 11 games left, the Dallas Mavericks are fighting for one of the last two spots in the Western Conference. Every game is even more crucial than the one before it from here on out.

Their battle to make the postseason continues Tuesday night and it won’t be an easy game to win, as they are hosting the team with the second best record in their conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavs (42-29) will start the night off in ninth place despite having the same record as the eighth place Phoenix Suns, who have the tiebreaker against them due to a better conference record, and .5 games behind the seventh place Memphis Grizzlies.

The Thunder (52-18) are also in a battle of their own as they are looking to claim the top spot in the conference and obtain home-court advantage in the playoffs. Right now, they sit two games behind the San Antonio Spurs for first place, but they will be hard to catch as they are sporting a 13-game win streak. To sum it up, both teams are looking to make moves in the standings as they prepare for a (potential for the Mavs) playoff run.

Nov 6, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) handles the ball against Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis (11) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the third and final meeting between these two squads in the regular season. The first two were in Oklahoma City and both teams have each had a double-digit win. Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 16.5 points on 45.8 percent shooting and five rebounds in this matchup. Shawn Marion has also played well, averaging 18 points on 60 percent shooting from the field. He has also made four of his six three-point attempts. Kevin Durant is averaging 26.5 points and seven assists so far this season against the Mavericks.

The Mavericks won the most recent matchup between the two teams on March 16. They shot 53 percent from the field and 54 percent from beyond the arc. The Thunder shot 36 and 31 percent, respectively, resulting in a 23-point loss. There are a couple of keys to this game for each team. First for the Thunder is the game-changer Russell Westbrook. Westbrook scored 22 points on 10-20 shooting in the first matchup, but he didn’t play in the latest meeting (coach’s decision). Although he didn’t play Monday night, Westbrook has sat out the the first game of doubleheaders for precautionary reasons (three knee surgeries does that to you) so he will most likely play Tuesday. Just like every game, his performance will impact the outcome for the Thunder.

For the Mavericks, Vince Carter will be a key player in Tuesday night’s matchup. Carter had zero points on four shots in 14 minutes the first time these two teams met, the game the Mavericks lost. In the last game, Carter had 18 points in 21 minutes and he made four of his eight three-point attempts. Coincidentally, they won that game. As for all NBA teams, bench play is key and for the Mavericks to get an advantage in bench production, they will need “Vincesanity” to give them a boost.

The Pick: This will be a very good offensive game and I think it will be closer than the first two games were. The Thunder score 106 points per game, the Mavs score 104 and they both shoot an efficient 47 percent from the field. It should be a fun game to watch and expect the Mavericks’ crowd to be loud and into the game as their team needs a big win. Like I said before, bench play will be very key. In their two games against each other this season, the winner had more bench points. I also think that three-point shooting will be significant as well. The Mavericks shoot 38 percent on the season, two percent higher than the Thunder, so they have the slight advantage there. They will, on the other hand, have the tough task of finding a way to slow down Kevin Durant, who has scored 25+ points in a career-high 35 straight games. This won’t be easy, but if they hold him to 25 that will be a small victory. The Mavericks need this one and I think they get it, 103-100. Durant will keep the streak alive, though.

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Shawn Marion’s Advice for Adam Silver

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Listen up, Adam Silver.

Veteran Shawn Marion of the Dallas Mavericks offered his advice to the newly appointed NBA commissioner, rattling off specific changes he would like to see in the league.

“Marion said he wouldn’t mind it at all if the NBA expanded with a franchise or two in Europe,” reported Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.

Expanding the NBA to Europe is an idea that has been around for quite some time now, and one that former commissioner David Stern believes will become a reality within the next 20 years.

While the 35-year-old did agree that there should certainly be a minimum that teams are required to spend on its players, there should not be a limit on how much franchises opt to pay them.

“I could see no cap and everybody doing what you want to do,” he said. “Baseball does it. If you want to go out and spend $200 million on your team (payroll), go ahead and do it.”

Marion’s opinion on this subject is one that has been brought up around the league. “If you’ve got the money to do it, why not?” he said.

The 15-year pro also expressed that he feels players should be required to stay in school longer before the jump to the NBA. Since the 2006 draft, new rules came into place that stated players must have already turned 19 during the calendar year of the draft and have been out of high school for a minimum of one year to enter.

“It should be at least two years (out of high school),” he said. “Two to three years, minimum.”

In 43 games this season, Marion is averaging 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds in over 31 minutes per contest.

 

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Will the Matrix Finally Get the Credit he Deserves?

Image from Sporto.org

Over his 13 year NBA career Shawn Marion has been known for many things: his freakish athleticism, his bizarre two-handed jump shot, even his uncanny ability to guard almost any position; however, one thing that has plagued Marion throughout his career is the perception that he is perpetually undervalued and never considered an elite player in the NBA.Marion’s struggles with the lack of recognition he has received for his play in Phoenix was well documented in Jack McCallum’s book “:07 seconds or less” and his inability to accept Amare as the alpha dog was believed to be the reason he was dealt out of phoenix in 2008. Despite being a four time All-Star, Marion was never considered to be the superstar in Phoenix.  During his tenure there Marion found himself taking a backseat to players like Stephon Marbury, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Suffice to say, the Suns were never considered to be Shawn Marion’s team. Continue Reading

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STS Roundtable: NBA Finals

Happy Finals Day!

Today, Saving the Skyhook kicks off our Finals coverage with some very exciting news. We have three new writers joining the team today: Alex McNamee, Neil Noonan and Scott Campsall. Blake and I have been reading their stuff, and we’re pumped to have these guys join the team. You’re going to enjoy what they can do. In the coming days, we’ll be updating the site’s About Us page with their information, but for now, we have a Finals Roundtable for you to pursue while you wait for tonight’s game (9pm ET, ABC).

Give this a read, and please welcome the team to the site!

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Not quite over the Hill

The Spurs ousted the Mavericks from the playoffs tonight, and I can’t say I’m surprised. All that talent — championship-caliber talent, to be sure — and Dallas still couldn’t come away with a victory.

And many believe that’s the franchise’s window for a title has now closed. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, and Jason Kidd will all be another year older come next year’s playoffs, and this disappointing first-round exit makes me wonder if Dallas would have been any worse off holding on to Devin Harris and two first-round draft picks.

Revisiting the series, now: while the achievements and talents of the Spurs’ Big 3 cannot be understated, the key to this defining series win for the Spurs was Mr. George Hill.

The second-year point guard from IUPUI made great strides in his sophomore campaign; he even played well enough to flirt with some attention for the league’s most improved player of the year award. After averaging under six points and 2 assists on 40 percent shooting in his rookie season, Hill countered with rates of 12.4 points and 2.9 assists on 48 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three.

Hill filled in admirably for Tony Parker when he was injured and kept the seventh-seeded team alive for the playoffs. And that’s when he really came alive.

Popovich elected to start Hill at point guard in the Dallas series, as Parker was still recovering from injuries, so Pop didn’t want to force that.

To be honest, Hill’s start to the series was brutal. He shot just 2-9 in the series’ first two tilts and was held scoreless in the first.

Then he took off.

In the most recent four games, he averaged a shade under 20 points a contest on 55 percent shooting. In addition, he hit a number of timely three-pointers and other tough shots to secure the series for the Spurs.

Moving on, I’m sure Hill is going to get a lot more attention after his performance. He certainly won’t get as many open threes as he did against Dallas. But for now, it looks like San Antonio made the right decision in not shipping Hill off in any trades over the last couple years. He should be an elite player in the league.

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Game of the Day: March 25

Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trailblazers — 10:30 PM eastern, telecast on TNT

There are only three games on the docket for Thursday, and the NCAA tourament resumes, too. Nevertheless, there will be one great game in the professional ranks. The Mavericks enter the night with sole possession of second place in the West after Denver’s loss to Boston Wednesday (yeah, another incorrect prediction), and Jason Kidd is coming off one of his best offensive performances in years.

The 36-year-old point guard posted 26 points, 6 boards, and 12 assists in a 106-96 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. If he can continue to play like that, the Mavericks will go very, very deep into the postseason. Dallas, too, will bring perennial scorers Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, along with defensive standouts Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, and Brandon Haywood.

The Blazers won’t roll over without a fight, though. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games, as Portland tries to maintain its four and a half–game lead over Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They feature one of the best scorers in the league, too, in Brandon Roy and are strong up front with LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby.

I think it’ll be close, and while I want to choose the Blazers because of their sense of urgency as the playoffs near, I can’t bet against Dallas these days. They’re too talented, and while I did diminish the importance of their 13-game winning streak, they are still playing fantastic basketball of late. Expect Roy’s production to be stunted by Butler and co., and chalk up 25+ for Nowitzki against Aldridge, who needs improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

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