Mavs-Nuggets: Irrationally Optimistic Game 5 Preview

Let's keep this short and sweet, as I'm scurrying off to Las Vegas this morning to accept a CLIO Award. (No, check that, they're whispering in my ear that my schedule actually calls for an Observer staff meeting in Uptown.) Guess the awards will have to live with appearances from Mavs owner Mark Cuban and ... Barry Manilow?

*I'm not saying it's chicken shit for Cuban not to be at tonight's Game 5 in Denver. He has been committed to the event for months. I am saying that the venom stored up for him will now be re-directed at Dirk Nowitzki, et al. (Betcha a nickel we see Cristal Taylor masks.) Plus, it'll just be surreal to look back on the most hostile, volatile road game in franchise history and remember that the owner wasn't there. Think of every monumental moment for the Mavs the last 10 years and you can probably attach a Cuban image. Tonight he could be celebrating a trophy while his team endures its funeral. Weird.

*Keep those sympathy cards and letters coming for poor ol' Kenyon Martin, who must be sooo offended by me calling his team the "Thuggets" and by Cuban calling him a punk. I mean, a guy who yells at another team's owner across the court and calls him a "fag" and a "mother fucker" and punctuates a threat with "You got to come to Denver, bitch!" is probably too busy with his deacon duties in church to take up for himself. Right?

*As for Carmelo Anthony's girl - LaLa Vasquez - she too strikes me as a innocent victim. Yeah, totally.

*Dallas' playoff run started with an impressive debut from the Killer B's: Bass and Barea. For it to continue to Game 6 they must have impact games again. Barea against Nuggets' reserve Anthony Carter is one of Dallas' few athletic advantages. And Bass, though giving up considerable height and weight to Nene, plays him three times better than Erick Dampier and his moist towelettes for hands.

*Assuming Chris Andersen returns for Denver, watch out. The Mavs, who outrebounded Denver by 16 without him, still don't have an answer for his ad-libbed energy.

*If I'm Rick Carlisle I do anything to slow the pace. You just have to play some zone tonight. If the Nuggets make 10 3-pointers you tip your cap and pack up your shit. On offense, a 24-second shot-clock violation isn't the worst thing that can happen. That would be the long desperation jumper which leads to a long rebounds which leads to a fast-break dunk.

*Playing his third game in five nights on bum ankles, I don't expect another double-double from Josh Howard. In other words, Jason Terry breaks out with 25-point game - or else.

*We take it for granted, but I anticipate another 35-15 from Dirk tonight. Isn't he the Dan Marino of the NBA? Gaudy statistics. Impeccabile longevity. Pristine character. But failure in his one shot at the big one.

*Since Dirk has earned his right to privacy - unlike Tony Romo or Josh Hamilton, who grab the spotlight by the short hairs - and since it obviously doesn't have a negative effect on his play, I'm not going to dig through his or Cristal Taylor's trash. But if you're fascinated by the troubled past of what is now one of his ex-girlfriends, here it is. If you were pissed at Channel 8's Brett Shipp last week, you have the same disdain for Dallas Only Daily's Brad Townsend this week?

*And, once and for all, it's no-WIT-ski, not no-VIT-ski. Got it? Once upon a time - the day he landed from Germany in the summer of 1998 - I asked him. His quip: "It's like VOLKS-wagon." In other words, it's not no-VIT-ski any more than it's VOLKS-vagon. I'm fully aware this will fall on deaf, dumb ears. Right, Michael Irving?

*All four games in the series have been basically 80-80. Give or take a few points either way, but late in the third or early in the fourth quarter the game actually starts. Can't we just skip the foreplay and get to it?

*The last two games the Mavs have been in a position to try to win by committing losing plays. A foul in Game 3. A missed free throw in Game 4. Tonight they should be so lucky. Considering how tiny their margin for error will be, they'll need almost a perfect game.

*If you watched any of Celtics-Magic you're thinking the same thing I am: The Mavs sure could use a big, productive body like Glen Davis. Two words: Nick Friggin' Fazekas.

*Great series. Too bad not a lot of us are watching.

*If you don't feel like I offered much optimism to my irrationally optimistic preview, well ... Nuggets in 5.

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