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2014 Playoff Primer: Breaking down the Mavs vs. Spurs X’s and O’s

Now that we’ve discussed some of the key matchups to watch for, let’s take a look at some of the key plays the Mavs and Spurs have found success with against each other this season.

The Spurs’ offense moves at a chaotic pace, but for as fast as the pieces move, everything San Antonio does on that end of the court is very controlled and disciplined. This makes for a very difficult defensive gameplan. However, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle has four games of film this season to review to devise a scheme that can hopefully limit some of the things San Antonio does best, namely running a terrorizing transition offense and finding open corner jumpers.

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2014 Playoff Primer: How the Mavs matchup vs. the Spurs

Aside just from what’s at stake in the playoffs, the postseason is completely different than the regular season when it comes to how coaches use their personnel. During the regular season, rotations are mostly consistent, stars play fewer minutes, and overall strategy is similar from game to game.

Once the postseason begins, all of that changes. Coaches stick with their go-to players for more minutes and, depending on what the series requires, might radically alter a game plan multiple times during a single series. When the Mavs and Spurs faced off in 2009, for example, Gregg Popovich threw out his regular season strategy in favor of double-teaming Dirk Nowitzki every time he touched the ball. The Mavericks ultimately prevailed in five games despite San Antonio holding Dirk to a 16.3 scoring average during the first four games of the series. The strategy shifted completely the opposite way the following season, when Popovich engineered a defense designed to let Nowitzki go wild. Dirk averaged 26.7 points per game but San Antonio clinched a 4-2 series win, as the Spurs focused on limiting the contributions of the supporting cast.

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2014 Playoff Primer: Mavs renew rivalry with Spurs

For the sixth time since the 2000-01 season, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan will square off in the playoffs. Their supporting casts have changed over the years, but Nowitzki and Duncan have been the constants. And beginning Sunday at noon, we’ll get to watch two of the greatest players of their generation — and of any generation, for that matter — do battle one more time. Basketball juggernauts will face off on the biggest stage of them all. What’s not to like?

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Monta Ellis is proving critics wrong one win at a time

Of all the people thrilled that Monta Ellis is a Maverick, Ellis himself is probably the most excited.

His outstanding season began under the microscope and ended with him earning Western Conference Player of the Week honors. The shooting guard said Tuesday that he’s a happier person since moving to Dallas and joining Dirk Nowitzki & Co. with the Mavericks.

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Brandan Wright’s undeniable impact on the defensive end

Each member of the Mavs’ three-headed monster at center has a very specific role. Sam Dalembert starts, sets hard screens, grabs rebounds at both ends, and protects the rim. Brandan Wright flies high and uses his length to bother pick-and-roll point guards. DeJuan Blair brings the energy.

All season long, head coach Rick Carlisle has juggled their minutes, often sticking primarily with the hot hand at any given time. Blair received the majority of the minutes early in the season, then they shifted to Wright, and finally to Dalembert. During the last eight games, though, it’s been Wright who has once again separated himself from the group. The offensive-minded center has had a larger defensive impact than even Carlisle could have asked for, and Dallas has reaped the benefits.

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Dirk Nowitzki rightfully perched among league’s elite

Dirk Nowitzki passed Oscar Robertson Tuesday night for 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He’s shot up the list this season, beginning the 2013-14 campaign sitting 18th all-time behind Jerry West. But after putting together one of the most efficient seasons of his career, Nowitzki has entered the pantheon of the NBA’s greatest scorers ever, a place he rightfully belongs.

Each member of the legendary top-10 is known for a move or moment unique to that player. For example, post moves are named after Hakeem Olajuwon (the Dream Shake) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (his famous sky hook), the league’s all-time leading scorer. Shaquille O’Neal is known for his strength and size, Michael Jordan for his relentless intensity and incomparable clutch gene, and Karl Malone for his proficiency in the pick-and-roll game. It’s known by now that Nowitzki’s biggest contribution to NBA lore is his iconic one-legged fade, but that’s not where the dialogue about Nowitzki’s greatness should end.

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Vince Carter embraces, excels in sixth-man role with Mavs

As basketball players age, they are faced with a challenging decision: they can either adapt their games and stick around, or they can simply fade away. This is especially true for players who were once superstars, the best on the planet at what they do.

One such player, Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki, has rightfully received lots of love from the NBA community for his stellar performance this season. The German is shooting up the all-time scoring list and has remained as efficient offensively as ever, even at 35 years old. But for all the pomp and circumstance revolving around Dirk’s prolific season, he’s not the only Maverick extending his career with grace and craft.

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Inside Dish: Q&A session with Vince Carter

Question: Did you consciously decide that you were going to focus on becoming a great bench player?

Answer: When I first came here, Coach and I talked about what my role was going to be. We have a lot of scoring power here in Dallas. I knew that coming in, and I told him that I would do whatever was asked of me to fulfill my role and to do my job. He basically told me that I would be great for the team off the bench. That I had the ability to give the team new life and a lot of energy off the bench. Being an older player and then hearing that I was the energy guy I was like, ‘Alright, whatever you say?!’ … But you know what, it has worked out for us. It really has been a challenge, but it is something that I am enjoying.

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Jae Crowder’s confidence and contribution on the rise

While the Mavericks haven’t been able to take complete advantage of the longest homestand in franchise history, losing three nail-biters that came down to the final seconds, the team’s lengthy stay in Dallas has been very kind to one player in particular: forward Jae Crowder.

The wing has found inconsistent playing time all season, as Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has given the backup small forward minutes both to Crowder and teammate Wayne Ellington throughout the season. During one stretch in late February it was Ellington who received the coach’s nod, and Crowder played just three combined minutes in five games.

However, the playing time pendulum has swung back The Beast’s way, and Crowder has deserved every second of playing time he’s been getting. During the last five games, Crowder is averaging 8.8 points per game on 64 percent shooting from the field, including a blistering 61.5 percent clip from beyond the arc. Prior to those five contests, Crowder had made just four field goals combined since Feb. 21.

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