... about the NBA:
1. There's a step up from Detroit and Atlanta to either Orlando or Boston, but the question for the Cavs right now is whether anyone can give them a game. Cleveland moved to 8-0 in the playoffs, with each victory by double figures, in an 84-74 win Monday that completed a 4-0 sweep of the Hawks. LeBron was brilliant once again, nearing a triple-double with 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but the story was Cleveland's defense, which held Atlanta to woeful 32 percent shooting. The Hawks shot just 2-for-13 from three-point range, and if it hadn't been for an advantage at the free throw line and in the turnover category, Atlanta might have been dusted by 25 or 30. The Cavs committed 18 turnovers to Atlanta's eight, and shot just 14-for-26 at the free throw line while the Hawks went 26-for-30. Cleveland once more struggled to find bench production, getting just six from Wally Szczerbiak and two from Joe Smith. There are chinks in Cleveland's armor, but they hardly show up next to the deep dents they put into their opponents. The Cavs took apart the Hawks on the boards again, gaining a 48-33 advantage through 11 from Anderson Varejao and 10 by Zydrunas Ilgauskas. No one on the Hawks had more than the eight rebounds of Josh Smith, who was one of only two cogs in working order for Atlanta. Smith had 26 points, while Joe Johnson had 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds. The rest of the team shot just 21 percent against a Cavalier defense that, together with LeBron, are halfway from delivering Cleveland its first championship.
2. The rest of the Mavericks finally gave Dirk Nowitzki the help he needed, and Dallas finally won a game in its Western Conference Semifinal series with Denver. Nowitzki scored 44 and was one of six players in double figures as the Mavs chipped away at a deficit that was as much as 14 points in the first half to come up with a 119-117 victory to avert a sweep. Josh Howard overcame his ankle to score 21 and grab 11 rebounds, while Jason Kidd had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Jason Terry, Brandon Bass and J.J. Barea scored in double-figures as well as the Mavs shot 51 percent. Dallas dominated the boards, with a 50-34 rebounding advantage thanks in large part to Nowitzki, who had a game-high 13. The Dallas star was virtually matched by Carmelo Anthony, who had 41 points, 11 rebounds and five steals, but for once, Anthony's team didn't have the firepower to keep up with Nowitzki's. Chauncey Billups had 24 points and seven assists, and J.R. Smith went 7-for-10 for 19 points, but it was clear the Nuggets missed Birdman Andersen, who was sidelined with a stomach flu. They got a solid performance from Nene, who had nine points and eight rebounds and caused all sorts of trouble once more for Erick Dampier, who fouled out. Yet it wasn't the sort of 20-plus point offensive showing he put out in Games 1 and 2. The Nuggets will struggle in the paint without either Birdman or an unusually stellar performance from Nene, but there's little for them to be concerned about as far as this series is concerned. It took a gargantuan effort for the Mavericks just to beat a shorthanded Denver team. Birdman should be back for Game 4 Wednesday (9 p.m., TNT), and that should be the end of the Mavs.
3. Just about everyone expected Chris Mullin's dismissal as VP of basketball operations from the Warriors. What no one can forecast is what Golden State will do next. The troubled franchise stripped Mullin of most of his power in November, firing Mullin aide Pete D'Allesandro and promoting longtime Don Nelson assistant Larry Riley, who was in turn named Mullin's replacement Monday. Team president Robert Rowell clashed with Mullin, despite the job Mullin did to construct the franchise's first playoff team since 1994. Mullin's acquisition of Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington in a midseason trade sparked the Warriors to the postseason in 2007, where as a No. 8 seed they upset Dallas, the league's top overall seed. The team barely missed the playoffs in 2008, but floundered to a 29-53 finish this year while Mullin was out of the loop. Now the Warriors are without not only a man who has brought recent success but a legendary player for the team in the '80s and '90s and a member of the original Dream Team. He was a connection to Golden State's last heyday for the Bay Area's rabid basketball following, and his departure will further test the team's already put-upon fan base. The franchise could be one of the league's most important teams, but under Chris Cohan, who has not coincidentally been owner since 1994, they have not been.