'Not what we signed up for'
72 games. A host of injuries. A public confrontation between the coach and some senior players. Widespread uncertainty about being traded for Anthony Davis. All that and everything else that has afflicted the Los Angeles Lakers' season was summed up in six words by LeBron James.
"Not what we signed up for," he said after his team slumped to its 41st defeat of the season, a loss which effectively slammed the door shut on their playoffs chances. "Obviously it's been a tough season for all of us. Suspensions, injuries, things of that nature, and us just not being able to play sustainable basketball for 48 minutes."
Talking about the injury-marred Lakers season, he continued: "It was just hard for us to have any type of rhythm, any type of camaraderie, any type of chemistry on the floor when Luke (coach Luke Walton) had to play with the lineups over and over and over, and try to figure out different scenarios on the court for us to be successful."
While there are still 10 games left in the Lakers season, introspection in the franchise will already have begun. After all, when James signed, the prospect of the Lakers not making it to the playoffs seemed implausible. James had made a habit of dragging the sub-par Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals.
How the Lakers recover from this will form an equally gripping sub-plot for the league as the will-he-won't-he over Anthony Davis did only a few months back. For now, as the playoffs begin, James will have to watch from home, for the first time since 2005.
Warriors collapse; Dirk Nowitzki leaves his mark
Just hours after the playoff credentials of LeBron James, the perennial thorn in their side, were ground into dust, the Golden State Warriors had a stumble against the Dallas Mavericks. In fact, it was more than a stumble! It was a face-first crash that may have woken up the Warriors from the auto-pilot they were threatening to slip into, having sealed their playoffs spot.
The Warriors, having rested talisman Stephen Curry, lost by 35 points to the Mavericks, their biggest defeat all season.
- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 24, 2019
The defeat notwithstanding, the Warriors, who are second on the Western Conference table, are already through to the playoffs despite the wobble.
"We just couldn't pull together after that slow start and we never could get any traction in the game," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted after the game. "So we just kind of flush this one down the toilet and move on to tomorrow, not much else to do."
Meanwhile, Draymond Green revealed that the two-time defending champions had trouble getting motivated to play the Mavericks, which led to the defeat.
"Sometimes playing against that team doesn't get you up so we had to find energy from somewhere else and we didn't," Green said.
While rookie Luka Doncic dropped a triple-double on the Dubs, veteran Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 21 points at a venue where he has many a memory.
It was here, at the Oracle Arena, that he scored the first basket of his NBA career. Over 31,000 points and 21 seasons later, Nowitzki bid adieu to the arena on an emotional night.
The other unforgettable memory of the German at the Oracle Arena also endures: the hole he put through a wall near the visitors' locker room in 2007 after the top-seeded Mavericks were eliminated in Game 6 by the Warriors, who were the eighth seeds in the Western Conference in that playoffs.
The spot has since become part of lore at the Oracle Arena and there are rumours that the Warriors will cut the portion out and move it to the Chase Center, which will hosts the Warriors games from the upcoming season.
Currently, though the hole has been covered by a piece of plexiglass with a bright yellow 'We Believe' T-shirt stuck on top of it. What further adds intrigue to the hole is that no one can seem to recollect whether Nowitzki created it by tossing a trash can or a chair into it. But the glass covering the hole was autographed by Nowitzki himself after the Mavs won the NBA Championship in 2011.
"It's bittersweet. It's a great thing to have something in an opposing arena, but also a great memory for them and not so much for me. But there's nothing I can do about it now but embrace it.
"It was part of my career, part of my history. I always say without these (playoff) losses in '06 and '07 back to back, I wouldn't have been the player I was in '11 to close the whole deal. This is part of my journey. It was brutal and tough to go through, but I grew from it a lot," he said after leading the Mavs to the rout over the Warriors on Sunday.
Dirk's final walk past his famous hole in the Oracle wall: pic.twitter.com/m16NQz1eDI
- Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 24, 2019
Curry scores a 'six-pointer'
Just days before the blowout against Mavs, the Warriors had a spectacular shot to celebrate, courtesy Curry.
Steph from the OPPOSITE three-point line! #DubNation
- NBA (@NBA) March 19, 2019
Boban scores a three-pointer!
And speaking of spectacular three-pointers, here's one from Philadelphia 76ers' Boban Marjanovic, a man whose personality seems like it was handcrafted to go viral!
Boban scored the first three-pointer of his career against the Atlanta Hawks, sending the internet into overdrive!
Boban drills his first triple EVER 💦
- Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) March 24, 2019