By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
If you think it's merely a coincidence that the Mavericks made it to the NBA Finals during a 2006 playoff run that included Terry punching San Antonio's Michael Finley in the nuts and Jerry Stackhouse tackling Miami's Shaquille O'Neal, then you probably also believe Michael Jordan has six rings merely because of his talent. Back then, the Mavericks were the vicious hunters. Now?
This team can whip the geriatric Spurs in a game of sidewalk chess, but to compete with the athletic, frenetic Nuggets on the no-holds-barred playground, it needs an infusion of Eduardo Najera or Nick Van Exel. Or, even better, a reminder from Carlisle.
"We've got to be more aggressive," the coach said after Game 1.
Good, if he would've stopped there. But instead he revealed the Mavericks' Whine Flu, a seemingly annual habit of complaining about their opponents' physical play and the lack of officials' whistles.
"It's hard for me to believe Dirk only shoots four free throws with the way he's being played," Carlisle bitched. "This is not meant to be a bitch session about the officiating. But when you're a minus-23 in free throws and a plus-10 in fouls, it's something you have to look at."
Rocky Mountain Why...in Colorado.
Was Nowitzki roughed up more than Ricky Hatton? Yes. Do the Thuggets smear the line and shove the envelope? Of course. Is it fair that Denver shot 36 free throws to Dallas' 13 in the opener? No way. But at this point—at this time of the year—the complaining and whining ring more hollow than a Lisa Salters report.
To have a chance in this series the Mavericks need to harness the pace and cruise-control their pulse. They must limit their turnovers and maximize their intensity. They have to combat Denver's energy with demure efficiency.
They have to hate the Thuggets as much as you do. And show it.
Nice guys may not finish last, but they don't get out of the second round.
If they're ever going to win a physical series against an aggressive opponent, the Mav have to stop shrinking from confrontation, stop complaining about the officiating and well, grow a pair.