The refs could’ve swallowed the whistle on Mike Conley’s outta-control drive in the final seconds. Monta Ellis could’ve made the last-second jumper. The Mavericks could’ve held onto to just one of the five losses in which they held leads of 15-plus points.
But, alas, could’ve didn’t. And, therefore, the morning after a heart-breaking 106-105 overtime loss to end the regular season in Memphis, the Mavs awoke this morning to these stark realities:
*With 49 wins and a high-octane offense, they are one of the most dangerous No. 8 seeds in NBA Playoff history.
*To win a playoff series for the first time since 2011, they have to beat the NBA’s best team four times after losing nine straight to them.
You can look at a multitude of spots where the Mavs could’ve earned the West’s No. 7 seed and a more appealing date with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but there’s no time for that. The San Antonio Spurs await.
Beating the Spurs just once would be an impressive feat. Beating them four times almost impossible. Why?
Because the Spurs have lost only five games since the All-Star break, and one of those came last night in a meaningless finale in which its regulars didn’t play. The last time the Mavs beat the Spurs they got a double-double from their point guard. Problem is the guy was named Jason Kidd, and the game was played on St. Patrick’s Day – 2012.
Game 1 of the best-of-7 series tips off Sunday at noon in San Antonio’s AT&T Center.
The Mavericks so desperately wanted to win last night and avoid the Spurs that 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki played a season-high 46 minutes. But that’s to indicate Dallas is already waving the white flag against the 62-win favorites to win the championship.
“We'll go down there and let it all rip in Game 1,” Nowitzki told reporters in the locker room last night. “We've got to compete like we did tonight. When we compete and we grind, I like our chances anywhere. We'll just let it all hang out. They're a great team. I mean, after the All-Star break, they've been rolling. They've been shooting the ball well. They're a very, very good team. They're definitely the favorites in this series. I think that's pretty obvious, but we're going in there to compete and see what happens.”
You’d like to think the Mavs can ramp up the pace and have a chance to win if they get the old, veteran Spurs to run with them. Problem is the Spurs’ efficiency on offense consistently exposes Dallas’ weak defense. In the four meetings this season the Spurs scored at least 109 points, averaged 112 and won by margins of nine, 12, six and nine points in a game played in American Airlines Center eight days ago.
Dirk will get his looks and the Mavs will score points. But they’ll done in by two aspects that can’t be magically corrected after 82 games: Rebounding and reserves.
In the four meetings this season the Spurs out-rebounded Dallas each time, by an average of 48-39. Nine possessions in a playoff game is bewildering. The Mavs were destroyed on the boards last night by the Grizzlies, and unless center Samuel Dalembert is alert and active and out of foul trouble, the fatal flaw will continue against the Spurs. San Antonio’s bench is simply deeper – and better. In the four meetings the Spurs’ reserves – led by Ginobli, Boris Diaw and Marco Belinelli – out-scored Dallas’ bench three times.
Dallas’ only hope in this series: Duncan, Parker or Ginobli gets injured. Dirk gets 2007-ish hot. Or San Antonio inexplicably takes its northern neighbors for granted. After all, in 2011 the No. 1-seed Spurs lost to the No. 8-seed Grizzlies.
So it can happen.
Sorry, it won’t happen.
Spurs in 5.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.