Those of you Mavs bandwagoners who hopped aboard in mid-April and blindly, boastfully predicted a sweep of the Golden State Warriors are likely not reading this, because, of course, you’ve abandoned Dallas and its 3-1 deficit. For those who actually watch basketball and believe in the power of match-ups and the brilliance of Don Nelson and therefore prepared for trouble, don’t pull that trigger just yet.
Put on your MFFL T-shirts and your Dirk Underoos and listen closely, because it all comes down to Thursday night. Yeah, Thursday night. Here’s how:
Tomorrow night at the American Airlines Center, the Mavs will be energized by two new faces: NBA Commissioner David Stern and, missing most of this series, NBA Most Valuable Player Dirk Nowitzki. Because the league likes to hand out the award in front of the home crowd and because Dallas is on the brink of elimination, Stern will hustle to Dallas and, before Game 5, hand the hardware to Dirk.
Then, better late than never, Nowitzki will take his MVP trophy and promptly shut up, then put up. The Warriors, a young team clueless about life as an overdog, will relax and promptly get blown out of the building. And in Saturday’s Game 7 back at AAC, the Warriors won’t have the maturity or mettle to handle the severity of the situation. Their 3-1 lead having melted into 3-3, those loosey-goosey three-pointers will fall short, those jovial huddles will turn into hard-swallowing stare-downs and, just like that, the underdog will play a tight, terrible game like a team with everything to lose.
Which takes us, in a roundabout way, to Thursday night’s Game 6 in Oakland.
It sounds simple, but all the Mavs have to do is the little things. In Sunday night’s 103-99 loss, Dallas committed unpardonable sins. Missed six free throws. Didn’t match up at the end of the first half, forcing Dirk, who had just made a free throw, to guard Baron Davis’ 50-foot three-pointer at the buzzer. Gave Golden State an extra free-throw on a rare lane violation. Allowed Davis to miss a free throw, only to grab his own rebound and score on a layup. Throw, at the end of the third quarter, a lazy cross-court pass against the team that led the NBA in steals.
These are mistakes that has Charles Barkley, dressed in a green Mavs jersey, with head in hands and the rest of us angry, sleepy masses at the end of our rope. The good news: It is fixable. It is winnable. And, it could be worse. Right, Dwyane? --Richie Whitt