Posted on: May 12, 2009 1:17 am

Denver should thank the Mavs, but ...

The dismantling of the Mavs is delayed another two days. The feud between Mark Cuban and Kenyon Martin's family lives to see another day. All that commotion behind the Nuggets' bench during Game 4 Monday night? Evidently, that was K-Mart's family being harassed by classy Mavs fans.

K-Mart exited the court after Dallas' series-extending victory shouting what most certainly were not pleasantries. I can only guess they were directed at Cuban.

But all that stuff is a sideshow. Two things jump out at me as this series moves to Denver for Game 5 Wednesday night.

One, Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke should thank the Mavs for extending the series another game. Another home playoff date equals another sellout crowd, lots of hot dogs, sodas, and beers sold at the concessions, and a free night of much-needed revenue.

Two, the Nuggets had better figure out how to close this series out Wednesday night without losing their cool. As I told Jason Horowitz earlier Monday, a Lakers-Nuggets conference finals is no sure thing for Kobe & Co. The Nugs are supremely talented, play underrated defense, have the kind of toughness under the basket that the Lakers lack as long as Andew Bynum remains invisible, and have Carmelo Anthony showing signs that he might be just as dangerous on the playoff stage as Kobe.

But the last thing Denver needs in a closeout game at home is to lose its composure. All it'll take is one flagrant foul -- and we all know how blurred that line as become -- to get somebody suspended for Game 1 of the conference finals.

So K-Mart & Co. need to leave their grudges with Cuban in Dallas. Forget about it. It's over. Focus on the game and what needs to be done to finish the series and keep it from going back to Dallas. And don't get anybody suspended for Game 1 against the Lakers.

There's a saying in sports journalism: When in doubt, be Dave Anderson, the venerable Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times. The Nuggets need to adopt a different form of that approach. When in doubt, be Chauncey Billups. This is why the Nuggets traded for Billups, because he knows how to close out teams and he knows how to win playoff series. Most importantly, he knows how to keep his composure in what has become a chippy, emotional, vindictive series. 

Get it over with and keep your cool. Let the security guards keep your family safe, let the NBA deal with Cuban, and play your game. 

Oh, and let your owner count all the free dollars that will flow into the bank by virtue of having to close this out at home. See, I'm an optimist at heart.

Posted on: May 9, 2009 9:13 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 1:52 am

Foul? What foul? (UPDATE)

There is no way to sugar-coat this. When you have a playoff game decided with an officiating controversy at the end, it's bad enough for the NBA. When it happens in Dallas, with Mark Cuban sitting courtside, it has Armageddon-like qualities.

Cuban dutifully updated his Twitter feed moments ago with this: "There is absolutely nothing to say after that." But I expect that's not the last we hear from him.

As if the league's controversy over what constitutes a flagrant foul and what doesn't has not been enough of a distraction, now we have this: the Mavs' Antoine Wright trying to foul Carmelo Anthony behind the 3-point line with the clock winding down, and no whistle. Denver was trailing 105-103 in the final 10 seconds when Wright appeared determined to foul Anthony, who was dribbling outside the arc. Strangely, Wright reached for the ball as Anthony picked up his dribble, then raised his hands in the air as if to indicate that he didn't foul him. If he was trying to foul -- Dallas had one to give -- that was an odd way of executing the play. As a side note, Anthony appeared on the replay to lower his shoulder and initiate contact with Wright on the play before shooting -- and making -- the deciding 3-pointer.

UPDATE: Which is why it was baffling -- positively baffling -- to receive a statement from the NBA asserting that the officials missed the intentional foul attempt by Wright. I am telling you, I was flabbergasted by this. I had dinner with another experienced NBA journalist in Houston Saturday night, and we couldn't believe this statement was issued. Not because it's foolish for the NBA to admit mistakes. No. Oh, no. Because neither one of us saw a mistake so obvious, so cut and dried, that it warranted a statement within a couple of hours after the game. Or any statement at all.

This is weird. Very weird. I stand by my analysis of the call, even though despite the NBA's best efforts -- and I honestly believe their intentions are to achieve the highest levels of accuracy and transparency -- I think the officials got this right on the floor and the league got it wrong in the email.

The key question is one that I haven't seen answered. And I offer this caveat: I didn't see the game live, only the replays. But the play in question came out of a timeout. And if a team intends to use a foul to give in that situation, the correct procedure -- or the smart procedure -- is for the coach or a player to inform the referees that they plan to commit an intentional foul. Did anyone do this? If so, the Mavs have a case. But even considering all that, and assuming that communication occurred, I stand by my analysis of the play. Wright did not commit the foul soon enough or in an obvious way. Not only that, but he seemed unsure of what he was supposed to be doing. He couldn't have made this any clearer than he did when he pulled up and raised his arms in the universal basketball gesture that means, "I didn't foul." 

Cuban was furious. He always seems to be at the center of an officiating controversy in the postseason, going all the way back to the 2006 Finals against Miami. There will be a solid 48 hours of comments, opinions, and accusations leading into Game 4 Monday in Dallas. (Good thing I'm going. I have displayed an uncanny knack for following the controversy this postseason.) But if you ask me, if Wright wanted to foul, he should've fouled quick and hard, before Anthony made his move and went into his shooting motion. It appeared that Wright was caught between giving the foul and putting Anthony at the line for three game-winning free throws -- or worse, fouling him in the act of shooting and creating the opportunity for a four-point play.

Maybe I'm wrong. I'll keep watching Cuban's Twitter feed, where I'm certain he'll set me straight. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com