DALLAS -- The overriding of theme of this Dallas Mavericks team has been a Three Musketeers thing, all-for-one and one-for-all. You had Shawn Marion accepting a bench role. Caron Butler adjusted to playing about 27 minutes a game and often never in the fourth quarter.
Tyson Chandler was providing the emotional fire. The players bought into Rick Carlisle's pleas for defense and success bred further buying in. The Mavs became a strong mix of veteran, championship-less talent that had dropped egos for the pursuit of a ring. And, for a long time that pursuit looked extremely promising.
But, with the final four games upon a Mavs team that is 8-9 in their last 17 games and have lost four straight, they've seemingly lost their mojo to the point of discombobulation. That breeds frustration and and that leads to the obvious question about team chemistry. Among the players, as well as with coach Rick Carlisle, is the bond still strong enough to turn the tide of the past month when the heat of the postseason descends on Dallas next weekend?
"I think we’re confident," Marion said. "We’re just trying to figure out a couple of little minor things here and there, which you should getting ready for the postseason. That’s really what it boils down to."
The Mavs understand the great MFFL nation is freaking out over the last month of head-scratching play.
"No question, no question. We're still trying to get everybody better," J.J. Barea said. "We're still getting on each other. We worked a lot in practice [Thursday], everybody talking to each other. We know we have to play way better than we're playing right now and hopefully we'll get hot at the right time."
The swoon has taken any focus of a potential second-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers totally off the table. This is a team now that is being questioned about it's capacity to win a first-round series against a lower seed.
Everyone, of course, remembers the unraveling that took place last postseason when the No. 7-seed San Antonio Spurs dismantled the No. 2-seed Mavs in Dallas' third first-round failure in four seasons. It wasn't pretty, but it did make all the more special the the way the same team, with the key addition of Chandler, came together this season.
As the pressure mounts, is this team still pulling in the same direction? Carlisle thinks so.
"I like our chemistry a lot. The chemistry has been good all year," Carlisle said. "It's a great bunch of guys and they all want to win. They've all put their money where their mouth is in terms of showing they're certainly willing to sacrifice, right on down the line."