Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Thursday, April 17, 2014
Updated: April 18, 11:27 AM ET
All in or nothing for Mavs

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

There is no logical reason to believe the Dallas Mavericks will beat the San Antonio Spurs in first round of the NBA playoffs.

We all know it.

The Spurs had the NBA's best record, and they've beaten the Mavs nine straight times. And know this: They were ahead by at least 15 points in seven of those nine wins.

Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki will need to produce about 23 points a game if the Mavericks are to have a fighting chance against the Spurs.

There's more.

The Spurs have the NBA's best coach, and they don't have the kind of defensive lapses and mental miscues the Mavs have at the end of games that often turn near victories into close losses.

The Spurs rebound better. They defend better. They shoot the 3-pointers better. And they have more future Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili than the Mavs.

The beauty of sport is the Mavs get an opportunity to prove me wrong ... and you, too.

The Mavs were the first No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose to a No. 8 seed in a best-of-seven playoff series, when the Golden State Warriors beat them in 2007.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the Mavs could pull off a similar upset over the Spurs? Now don't go wager a River Walk dinner at Boudro's bistro over the series outcome or place a legal wager on the Mavs to win.

But as my dad often says, "There's a reason why you play the game."

He's talking about Texas Western's upset over Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA hoops title game. The New York Jets over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team over Soviet Union.

And just for good measure, what about the Mavs over the Miami Heat in 2011.

Speaking of the Mavs' 2011 title, it doesn't happen without Dallas sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers. None of y'all thought the Mavs would beat Lakers, especially after struggling mightily to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

But the Mavs rallied from 16 down in Los Angeles and stole the first game to take a 1-0 series lead. More important, that game convinced the Mavs they could win the series with L.A.

To beat San Antonio, a similar awakening must occur. So much of sports is about confidence. Something on the court must happen that convinces the Mavs they can win the series -- not just a game or two. Hoping to win isn't good enough to beat the Spurs.

Any conversation about the Mavs winning begins with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis each averaging about 23 points a game and playing with the same efficiency they've had all season.

Dirk Nowitzki
Nowitzki has to bring his usual efficiency, certainly, but he's going to need a whole mess of help against San Antonio.

We saw against the Phoenix Suns last week when Ellis had 37 points and Dirk had 23 just how lethal the duo can be when they're both shooting the ball well.

But the Mavs also need Jose Calderon to shoot about 50 percent on 3-pointers to keep San Antonio's defense honest.

They need Devin Harris to play good defense and keep Parker from maneuvering into the lane whenever he wants and hitting an array of floaters.

They need Samuel Dalembert to stay out of foul trouble and play solid defense against Duncan. The Mavs don't like to double Duncan, because he's such a good passer out of the double team. And the Spurs have an array of quality catch-and-shoot scorers.

They need Harris and Brandan Wright creating buckets on the pick-and-roll.

They need Vince Carter to have several rev-it-up moments, when he has a Vinsanity flashback.

They even need DeJuan Blair to make himself a nuisance, when it comes to guarding Duncan.

The reality is the Mavs need everyone on the roster to beat the Spurs.

We do know that if the players keep the game close, Carlisle will draw up a play or two that will give the Mavs an opportunity to win.

The Mavs are playing some of their best basketball of the season right now. They've been essentially playing pressure basketball for the past month just to make the playoffs.

Only the dudes in the locker room and those folks who draw a paycheck with Mark Cuban's signature on it believe the Mavs can win this series, let alone make the Spurs play six games.

The Mavs will have an us-against-the-world mentality, which is good. But they're going to need much more to beat the Spurs.