By Sam Rubenstein

I put together my year in the D.A.Y. yesterday, so now I’m switching formats to only talk about the games that mattered. You could say I’ve been doing that anyways over the past month. Only one more day of the regular season grind, and yes it is a grind.

Lang sent me a text message last night, saying the Mavs were tanking against Golden State. Indeed. The Warriors ran over the Mavs third stringers with ease 111-82. Golden State has not clinched anything yet because the Clippers beat Phoenix, even with the Suns sticking to their regular rotation. Elton Brand led L.A. with 21 and 9, but the highlight surrounding the game has to be this quote from coach Mike Dunleavy “Dallas didn’t play their guys. Obviously Phoenix played their guys, so it tells you they (the Mavericks) probably prefer to play Golden State than us. That’s what it comes down to.” Yeah, that’s what it is Mike. They are scared of the Clippers, and would much rather face a team that keeps beating them, and is coached by the guy that developed their best player a la John Gruden and Rich Gannon for you football fans. Nothing to do with Dallas resting up a banged up roster.

I really want to commend Avery Johnson for this psychological ploy. You can tell that he has learned well from Gregg Popovich. Two seasons ago when the Suns and Spurs were the best in the West, they met up in a late regular season game. The Suns would have proven that they are on the Spurs level with a win. The Spurs would have proven hey we’re still the Spurs and we are invincible. But, if the Suns were to win that game, then it could have given them confidence and maybe planted a little doubt in the Spurs minds. So, Pop had Duncan and Ginobili sit out, and Amare scored 50 in a win that revealed nothing. In the playoffs that year, San Antonio won their Western Conference Finals showdown, in part due to their psychological edge.

Last night, by going with the B or C team, Avery prevented the Warriors from gaining what must already be a staggering amount of confidence against his team. If Dallas played Dirk, Howard, etc. and won, it would have been nice but the Warriors already know they can beat them. By holding out his two best players among others, Avery refused to let Golden State enjoy the feeling of “We OWN those guys.” Well played, Mr. Johnson. Also, by going hard to win the game, the Mavs would have been seen as panicking, feeling the need to knock a team out of the playoffs to control their own match-up. Which could be interpreted as fear. 66 win teams should fear having to play no one.

In other psychological news, I wonder about the Joey Crawford suspension and its effect on the playoffs. The good thing is that refs will hopefully learn and just do their jobs, which is to keep things fair and running smoothly, not making themselves the show. This being the NBA, I don’t think we can honestly trust them. You think Joey didn’t have any friends? How will the other refs treat Tim Duncan? When he whines about calls – which is inevitable – will Joey be in the back of their minds? I think so. Something to watch out for.

STANDINGS WATCH
Cleveland beat Phily 98-92. That means that if Cleveland takes care of business against the Bucks tonight, and the Nets beat Chicago, then Cleveland takes over the 2 seed. A Nets win in that game would wrap up the 6th seed for Jersey, delivering the Toronto-Jersey series. If Cleveland does become #2 seed, that means Jersey has won, and sets up Cleveland-Washington in the first round. The Wizards slide continued last night against Orlando, despite 48 points from Antawn Jamison. It seemed unlikely, even with the Gilbert injury, but the Wizards are now a loss away from dropping all the way to the 8th seed. I’ve been keeping a list of playoff series possibilities for a Slamonline team project that’s about to start, and I already had Detroit-Orlando written in stone. It took me all day to chisel that thing. Thanks a lot Wizards. If the Bulls beat Jersey, then Chicago holds on to the #2 seed, and we enter the world of tie breakers that might just be randomly assigned by David Stern.

Basically the East is a huge mess. The way it should be. Also Detroit beat Toronto and Atlanta beat Indy. Great.