The Mavs don’t have another meeting with the Hornets until Tuesday. But in the time between now and then, they do have hastily-scheduled triple-header meetings with Doubt, Angst and Urgency.
The principals attempted to maintain smiley faces after being saddled with an 0-1 deficit in their best-of-seven series with Round 1 foe New Orleans.
Said Jason Kidd, deadpanning on what Dallas can do to slow Chris Paul: “Hope he misses.’’
Said Dirk Nowitzki, monotoning after the 104-92 loss: “It’s one game.’’
Said Avery Johnson, who still anticipates a looong series. … and is trying to postpone a looong offseason: “If this was single-elimination, we'd really be disappointed. We know this is going to be a tough, long, grind-it-out series. Fortunately, there is a Game 2.’’
The surface calm of Avery and his leaders shows some wisdom. There is no reason to expose to the stunningly triumphant Hornets any open wounds, any shattered psyches, any Jimmy Stewart-in-‘Vertigo’’ fear of falling.
But the bloody gashes, the dizzying mentality, the feeling that they’re spinning, spinning, spinning towards a first-round failure they truly never anticipated? Yes. Those are very real.
If I was a betting man, I would’ve put Nate’s college fund on the Mavs in this series. (Sorry, kid. I’ll pull some strings and see if we can still sneak you into ITT Tech on a football scholarship.) Why? From what I’m told, the team’s Thursday workout – the one sandwiched in between Dallas’ regular-season-finale win over NO and the Saturday playoff-opener in The Big Easy the Game 82 win triggered – was about 70 percent practice and about 30 percent celebration.
The Mavs weren’t arrogant about this, or disrespectful toward the Hornets. But they were positively jubilant at the way the Western Conference playoff puzzle pieces had landed. The Lakers on the other side of the bracket, not to be seen until a WCF – and only after they’d successfully sprinted past the high-flying Nuggets in the first round and successfully wrestled past the physical Jazz in the second. The Suns and Spurs sucking the energy from each other in their Round 1 duel, the winner emotionally drained as it prepared for the survivor of the other Western series. … Dallas’ time-tested studs vs. New Orleans’ Not-Old-Enough-To-Shave Players.
Then along came CP3, a 12-point halftime lead transformed into a 12-point loss, and more of the postseason pimples that threaten to leave this franchise permanently pockmarked. (We want Greg Popovich’s won-lost record, but not his complexion, thank you.)
Are they ever going to handle a scoring PG? D-Wade did some of that two years ago, Baron Davis did all of it last year, and here comes Chris Paul, gliding through a first half with “just’’ 11 points and three assists – ESPN saw those numbers and decided to conduct a congratulatory halftime interview with Kidd – before jet-streaming past Kidd and anything Avery tried, finishing with 35 points, 10 assists, four steals and no turnovers.
Are they ever going to win monster games on the road? They had the late-season closer in Phoenix, yes. But they are 17-25 this year on the road. They are 1-9 in their last 10 roadies against winning teams. And, taking the Mavs’ three-year track record as a playoff road them?
Well, two years ago they lost three straight at Miami. Then last year they lost three straight at Golden State. Now this year they’re down 0-1 at New Orleans.
That’s a trend, kids. Toss in the fact that in best-of-seven series, Game 1 winners take their series nearly 80 percent of the time. When it's the home team that wins, the number goes up to a whopping 86 percent. That’s about momentum. That’s about home-court edge. But you know why else the winner of G1s end up winning most series? Because the winner of G1s are usually the better team.
Dirk – who was brilliant, by the way, and if you really want to rip him for scoring 31 in a 12-point loss then by my math you must have expected him to score 44 – continued the calm massaging of this loss by going all X’sy-and-O’sy on us.
He mentioned that “they forced the ball out of Terry’s hands’’ and that “in the halfcourt they were sittin’ on our stuff’’ and that “the playoffs are a game of adjustments.’’
Adjustments? Sounds like the Hornets – by doing things like strategizing to shut down Jet and by recognizing Dallas’ halfcourt sets – were the ones who made the “adjustments.’’ Sounds like it’s on Avery & Co. to craftily counter-move. (Are you comforted by that notion?)
Is all this a reason to shrink, to panic, to quit? No.
Is all this a reason to admit to open wounds, shattered psyches, and Jimmy Stewart-in-‘Vertigo’’ fear of falling? No.
But these Dallas Mavericks’ meetings with Doubt, Angst and Urgency? They are now on the schedule. And given the results of the last three playoff seasons, the Mavs certainly know exactly where to find them.