- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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For months, Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks have maintained their only goal during the regular season was to make the playoffs, regardless of seed.
They're in, though we don't know yet whether they're going to wind up with the sixth or seventh seed in the Western Conference -- not that it matters.
The Mavs aren't going to be around long.
And it has nothing to do with a lack of respect. Or hating on the Mavs, the usual refrain when a member of the MFFL -- Mavs Fans For Life -- disagrees with a viewpoint.
It's not even based on the Mavs' largely listless performance in a 104-94 win over the Golden State Warriors, who started four rookies. It took a 3-pointer by Delonte West as time expired at the end of the third quarter to give the Mavs a six-point lead and inspire them to put away a clearly inferior team.
Coach Rick Carlisle achieved his goal of keeping the minutes down for his key players.
"The approach is to play well and win," Carlisle said. "It seems to me like when you do that, it's karmically the right thing to do.
"We're not going to play guys crazy minutes or anything like that. We're going to do things in the right spirit of the process we feel is right for us to get ready to play.
"The whole thing about wishing for this team or not wishing for that team, that's dicey."
If you're honest, there's not a single shred of tangible evidence that suggests the Mavs will make a deep playoff run.
If you choose to believe there's some magical switch that'll be flipped now that the playoffs are about to begin, then you probably believe in the tooth fairy.
The NBA playoffs don't work that way.
You can't fluke your way or luck your way to win a seven-game series. Any optimism you have about the Mavs defending their title has everything to do with hope or blaming the condensed schedule -- 66 games in 123 days -- for their regular-season woes.
While there's some truth to the schedule affecting a team such as the Mavs with eight players in their 30s, it's not the primary reason they won't make it past the second round of the playoffs, if that.
In the past, we could point to the Mavs' regular-season success as a harbinger for playoff glory. Or their ability to win road games. Or their execution at the end of games.
When all else failed, you could talk about the Mavs' offensive efficiency and their ability to overwhelm opponents.
None of that exists this season.
The Mavs' .563 winning percentage is their worst since they won .442 percent of their games in 2000, the year before Cuban bought the team and changed its destiny. The Mavs, who have won 55 road games the last two seasons, are 13-18 on the road this season and just 4-24 when trailing after three quarters.
The Mavs will feed off their doubters and play the "us against the world" role when the playoffs begin.
That won't help them.
What will is the postseason schedule. Instead of back-to-back games and four games in five days, they'll have a day off between games. Maybe two days.
And if they can win a series in five or six games -- a huge if -- then they can get as many as four or five days off.
When the Mavs began their championship run last season, few outside their organization -- if any, gave them a chance to win a title. When they met the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, most so-called experts predicted the Heat would win.
So the Mavs aren't going to care about being underdogs. All they wanted was an opportunity to defend their title.
We're about to find out what they do with it.
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