Athletics

Wounded Warriors focus on stumbling Mavs

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Wounded Warriors focus on stumbling Mavs

March 16, 2011

DALLAS (47-20) vs.
WARRIORS (30-37)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

OAKLAND (AP) -- If shots are falling for the Dallas Mavericks, they're awfully difficult to beat. Their latest game proved to be a surprising exception.

After falling to third place in the Western Conference, the Mavericks try to bounce back and avoid a third consecutive defeat - and fifth in seven games - when they wrap up a quick two-game road trip Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors.

RELATED: NBA conference standings

Dallas (47-20) shoots the ball better than any team in the West, connecting on 47.7 percent of its attempts, and when Dirk Nowitzki and his teammates are hitting they've been practically untouchable. When the Mavericks shoot at or above their average, they were 30-5 heading into Tuesday's visit to Portland.

With that in mind, it's hard to believe Dallas' season-best 59.7 percent shooting performance - which included an 11-for-11 start - could have led to anything but a comfortable victory. But with Tyson Chandler battling foul trouble and Brendan Haywood out, the Trail Blazers used 15 offensive boards to create extra possessions in a 104-101 victory that dropped the Mavericks behind the Los Angeles Lakers.

RELATED: Nowitzki's game-tying 3 off the mark, Mavs fall to Blazers

Dallas fell to 36-4 when it scores at least 100 points while losing for the fourth time in is last six games overall. Those defeats have been by a combined 10 points.

Neither of Golden State's past two games has been close. The Warriors (30-37) turned in one of their best defensive efforts of the season Sunday, holding Minnesota to 36.6 percent in a 100-77 win, but that didn't carry over Monday against the West's worst team.

Sacramento shot exactly 20 percent better than the Timberwolves had a night early, outscored Golden State 66-38 in the paint and led by as many as 25 in a 129-119 victory.

REWIND: Warriors fall to last-place Kings

Warriors coach Keith Smart wasn't surprised with his team's lackluster effort even though it was hardly taxed the night before.

"I knew we were going to be flat," said Smart, who kept Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and the rest of his starters out for the fourth quarter. "I was hoping that we wouldn't, but we didn't have the juice. We couldn't match up to the speed of the game. We didn't have the energy."

Sacramento's Marcus Thornton, who averaged just 9.8 points coming in, had a career-high 42 points, but that's not the first time Golden State has let an unheralded guard have a career night. Dallas' Rodrigue Beaubois had 40 points - hitting 9 of 11 3-pointers - in his team's last trip to Oakland, a 111-90 rout on March 27.

Beaubois, who missed 55 games this season with a fractured left foot, has never scored more than 24 points in another game.

In the lone meeting this season, Nowitzki and Jason Terry combined for 45 points in a 105-100 win over the Warriors on Dec. 7 in Dallas - the Mavs' fourth straight win in the series.

REWIND: Highlights -- Dallas 105, Warriors 100

Golden State and Dallas will get well acquainted over the next few weeks, though. They'll play again Sunday at American Airlines Center before meeting once more in Oakland on April 2.

One problem for the Mavericks lately - particularly as Chandler has found himself in foul trouble - has been a spike in the second-chance points they've allowed. Portland had 18 Tuesday thanks to their dominance on the offensive glass, and Dallas has given up 17.0 per game - 4.4 more than its previous average - during its 2-4 stretch.

It's unclear if Haywood, who's battling a sore back, will return Wednesday.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.