Nine Games to Go …

So the stage is set for a thrilling finish. Three teams, nine games, two playoff spots.
The Warriors don’t hold any head-to-head tie-breaker. The best they can do is split the season series with Dallas and Denver. Even if they do, they lose out in the second tie-breaker: conference record.
The Warriors’ only chance – other than just finishing with a better record than one of these teams – is a three-way tie. Then the second tie-breaker is record against the other teams that are tied. If the Warriors beat Dallas and Denver, they’d be 4-4 against the two teams combined. Denver would be 4-3 and Dallas would be 3-4. Dallas would be out.
But all that stuff is way too complicated. The best way is just to win more games than one of the other two teams. So let’s breakdown the remaining schedule of each team:

Mavericks Remaining Schedule
at Clippers
vs. Warriors
at Lakers
at Suns
vs. Seattle
vs. Utah
at Portland
at Seattle
vs. New Orleans

Count roadies against Kobe and Nash as losses, especially if Dirk isn’t back yet. Both teams are playing for something. The Lakers aren’t playing that well, but they should get Pau Gasol back any day now.
If you give the Mavericks wins over their scrub opponents, that’s four victories (though at Portland isn’t as easy as it looks, especially with their desperation to finish above .500). Dallas has three other tough home games (Golden State, Utah and New Orleans). Depending on how the Mavericks do in those games will likely determine their playoff fate. Win two, they’re probably in. Lose all three (which is more than possible, especially if Dirk isn’t back or comes back at less than 90 percent), they’re done.

Nuggets Remaining Schedule
at Suns
vs. Suns
vs. Kings
at Sonics
at Clippers
at Warriors
at Jazz
vs. Houston
vs. Memphis

Just giving them wins over their scrub teams, for argument’s sake, they’ll win at least four (Sac, Seattle, LAC and Grizzlies) of their last nine. The remaining five are tough. They’ll probably lose at Phoenix and Utah. But at home to Houston and Phoenix and the road game against the Warriors are winnable. If they pull out two of those three, they’re 6-3 over the last nine and sitting pretty.

Warriors Remaining Schedule
at Spurs
at Mavs
at Grizzlies
at Hornets
vs. Kings
vs. Nuggets
vs. Clippers
at Phoenix
vs. Sonics

They have to beat the Grizzlies, Clippers and Sonics to have any chance. So, again for argument’s sake, put those in the books. Sacramento and Denver at home will be tough games, but they desperately need to win those and should be able to. That would put them at 50-32.
If they can’t beat the three scrubs left on their schedule, and win two home games against quality opponents, they don’t need to get in anyway. That leaves roadies at San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans and Phoenix. If they can get one of those road games, in addition to the previously mention five games, that’s 6-3 over the last nine and a 51-31 record.


NBA Confession

So, I was informed by the league office that the NBA DOES NOT voluntarily release its opinion or analysis about controversial judgment calls. The offensive foul ref Bob Delaney called on Monta Ellis is considered a judgment call. The NBA only volunteers its analysis for specific rules violations or in serious circumstances.
The league does, however, share its findings on controversial calls when a member of the media asks. So I asked. And Stu Jackson answered.
“We did review,” he said Tuesday. “The call was incorrect.”
“After looking at the play, the foul was on (Derek) Fisher and not (Monta) Ellis. It appeared that Fisher pulled Ellis down.”
There you have it.


Webber a Hall of Famer?

His numbers stack up among some of the best. He certainly had Hall of Fame talent. His impact on the game – changing the way we look at power forwards in this era – is rare.
But Webber is not a Hall of Famer. Sorry. He was a great player. But I find it hard to place him among that elite group. There very specific reasons he doesn’t belong.

*He never won. Never even played in an NBA Final
*He had a reputation as a diva, a coach killer. True or not, that’s how Hall of Fame voters will view him. He won’t ever pass the Hall of Fame citizenship test.
*Michigan scandal. Remember, it is the Basketball Hall of Fame, not the NBA Hall of Fame. His NCAA violations, which cost Michigan their Fab Five records, factor into play. That’s a stain that is too hard to hide.

Webber was an innovative player. He was a productive and special talent. But, based on his success as a player, he could almost be considered an underachiever. Someone with the tools he had should have rings, MVPs, etc. He was only a five-time All-Star. He made All-NBA once.
That’s not enough, to me. What do you think?


Kobe Whines Too Much

To be sure, I am a huge fan of Kobe’s game. I think he is the best player in the league, and it’s not as close as most think.
That said, it seems he is always complaining to the officials. Few players gets as many calls as Kobe (he is fourth in the league at free throw attempts — behind only Dwight Howard, Allen Iverson and LeBron James). And he has become the king of drawing fouls, and he gets a lot of B.O.D. despite his reputation.
Plus, Kobe is way too big of a star to be whining so much. The league has put in all these rules to rid the complaining, because it doesn’t like that image, and the biggest star in the league is one of the biggest offenders.
I really like Kobe as a player, and I think it’s to the detriment of his legacy. People already don’t like him. As much as his game makes him hard not to watch, the complaining only gives fuel to the fire.


K-Mart or Mississippi Bullet?

Be honest. Who would you rather have? Kevin Martin or Monta Ellis.
Both are shooting guards. Both are dynamic scorers. Both have defensive weaknesses.
After the Kings-Warriors game in Oakland, I would’ve said Monta. After Tuesday’s game at Arco, I’m not so sure.
Ellis is electrifying and has so much room for growth. Martin is a bit more versatile, especially on offense and has the size advantage.
Who would you take? I really am torn.


These Are Must Wins

Vs. Memphis
At Sacramento
At Los Angeles Clippers

With the schedule facing them down the stretch, the Warriors can’t afford another slip up against inferior teams. So what they’re on the road. They need to win these games to keep ahead of Denver, or catch the Mavericks.
This great opportunity for the Warriors to do both.
Denver’s next three games: vs. Seattle and at Detroit and at Philadelphia. They’ll likely go 2-1 (though the Philly game is the second of a back-to-back; the Sixers are playing well and you know they’ll be hyped for Iverson’s return).
Dallas’ next three games: at Miami, vs. Boston, vs. Lakers. They could very well also go 2-1.
So the Ws only way to gain ground would be to go 3-0 against these lowly teams. Winning these three games, the Warriors could head into Friday’s game vs. Houston 3.5 games ahead of Denver (or more) and a game behind Dallas (or tied if the Lakers and Celtics handle business) with one fewer loss than the Mavericks.
This is the LAST significant break in the schedule. Their next games against sub-.500 teams are all surrounded by top-tier opponents. Not to mention, they have a four-game road trip that includes the Spurs, Mavericks and Hornets.
Remember, the Warriors play four of their last five games at home — three of those games come against Sacramento, LA Clippers and Seattle. If they can head into that stretch with a cushion over Denver, or holding the No. 6 seed, their playoff fate will be in their hands. But it all starts by winning these three games.


Phoenix Loss Not All Bad

Finally got a chance to watch the Phoenix game. I was quite impressed with the Warriors performance. Yeah, I know they lost. But they didn’t get blown out. They played well for most of the game. They got less than stellar performances from key players.
And they only lost by eight, finishing off a back-to-back set on the road.
What I liked:
*Baron was unstoppable. I thought he was wearing down, but he still has some juice left, obviously. All he needs is motivation, which he’ll have down the stretch and in the playoffs, should they make it.
*The attention Ellis received. He didn’t have a good game, but he’s gotten good enough, especially against Phoenix, that they can’t just key on Baron. If Jax and Al are hitting as well, Phoenix can’t guard the Warriors
*I liked the way they played Shaq. Instead of sending a double-team, Nellie stayed with Shaq straight up. Smart move. Though Al – and anyone else on the Ws bench – are way undersized, it can work. Shaq isn’t as good as he used to be, plus the size difference is so exaggerated, there is a much better chance Shaq will drawn an offensive foul. No need to help Shaq by sending a double his way, which will open up the open looks for everyone else. Make him prove he can dominate.
It was enough to make me like the Warriors chances against Phoenix in the playoffs. They can win in Phoenix, and we know they can beat the Suns in Oakland. The Warriors would have to figure out something to do with Amare, who dominated way to easily. But they are good enough, and Phoenix has stepped back enough, that the Warriors can steal one or two in the Valley of the Sun.