Czar’s End of Year Awards: Most Improved

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Gameday Dish: Lakers vs. Mavericks

With the light at the end of the 82-games-long tunnel fast approaching, the Dallas Mavericks will take on the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at the Staples Center in the second game of a unique SoCal road back-to-back for Mark Cuban’s 2011 title-contenders.

Dallas is on a five-game win streak. Last night, also at Staples, former league MVP and 13th-year do-everything combo-forward Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs to a 106-100 hard-fought victory over the Los Angeles Clippers and soon-to-be ROY Blake Griffin.

Coach Rick Carlisle’s team is 27-10 away from Big D and has the NBA’s best road record. At 53-21 the Mavs are a mere .5 game behind the two-time defending NBA champs in the standings with 8 games to go before the 30 teams become the 16.

Coach Phil Jackson’s Lakers last played on Sunday and capped their regular-season sweep of  New Orleans with a 102-84 win in front of the Hollywood faithful. 15th-year lifetime Laker Bryant had 30 points against the playoff-bound Hornets. 10th-year PF Pau Gasol filled up the box score with 23 points, 16 boards and 4 blocks. Since the All-Star break and festivities in Los Angeles, the Lake Show has won 15 of 16 games.

Their current 7-game win streak, which coincidentally began on March 12th in Dallas with a 96-91 road W, has propelled Kobe and company to the second slot in the Western Conference. At 53-20 they are now 3.5 games behind league-leading San Antonio Spurs. Also, if victorious tonight, the purple and gold will finish their longest home stand of this season at 7-0.

The Mavericks bested the Lakers in their first meeting of this 2010-11 campaign 109-100. So tonight’s game, the third of three and the only meeting at Staples between these clubs, is an important ‘rubber-match’ on many levels. With less than 10 games left before the postseason, Dallas and Los Angeles stand neck-and-neck, jockeying for the #2 seed in the West and home-court advantage in the second round of the playoffs – a potential and likely matchup of these two talented and tough sides.

Reggie Miller will be back in the booth with Dick Stockton and me tonight. After having to learn so many names for his NCAA coverage, I hope Reggie still remembers who these NBA guys are. Tune in to TNT at 10:30 PM ET to see the NBA’s hottest team host the NBA’s top road warriors in a game with huge postseason implications.

Czar’s End of Year Awards: Defensive Player

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On The Road with Mike: EuroBasket 2011

On The Road with Mike: EuroBasket 2011

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