Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Dirk Nowitzki: 'They're desperate now'
By Jeff Caplan ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks need one more.
"We've got to come out with all the energy in the world," center Tyson Chandler said. "We've got to muster up whatever we have and try to finish this thing."
If this enlightened playoff run started as mission impossible, then Game 4's incredible rally past the Oklahoma City Thunder for a commanding 3-1 Western Conference finals lead seemed absolutely appropriate. Now they have arrived at their first chance to close out the Thunder and any remaining doubters, and advance to the NBA Finals.
"They're going to come back in Game 5 and are going to throw everything at us," said Dirk Nowitzki, whose 40 points in the Game 4 overtime win pushed him into second in playoff scoring at 28.6 points a game behind the Thunder's Kevin Durant. "Obviously, they're desperate now. But they showed they can win on our home court, so they're going to be confident and we've got to take it."
Western Conference Finals
The Mavericks and Thunder face off with the Western Conference title on the line. Follow the matchup from Day 1 on ESPN.com's series page.
One more win Wednesday night and the Mavs will claim their second Western Conference championship in franchise history, the first in front of their home crowd.
Dallas is 2-0 in close-out games. They withstood Portland's early surge in Game 6 at the Rose Garden and then held on late, and obliterated the Los Angeles Lakers with a 3-pointer barrage in Game 4 to complete a stunning sweep.
Only Oklahoma City can claim a playoff win in Big D.
"We know we've won in that building before," said Durant, double-teamed and trapped into frustrating and confusing situations in Game 4. "We'll try to bring it back to OKC. That's the plan."
This postseason has been about slaying past playoff demons one by one, and since the Mavs' 23-point, here-we-go-again fold-job in Game 4 against the Trail Blazers, Dallas is 9-1 while forcing upon its opposition the type of psyche-crushing meltdowns -- whether it be the Lakers in Games 1 and 3 or the Thunder in Game 4 -- that it has all too often dragged into its own torturous offseasons.
For that reason the Mavs have not celebrated their two series wins or events such as Monday's historic comeback with much gusto. Too many championship-starved veterans know the job is not done. The Mavs are not expecting the youthful Thunder, even after those disastrous final five minutes Monday that stacked the odds heavily against them, to pack it in now.
"Remember Game 2?" Carlisle said. "We came out and they kicked the [expletive] out of us from start to finish."
Carlisle gave his players a much-needed day off after Monday's heavy workload, with Wednesday's game marking the fifth in nine days. The coaching staff was back in the office breaking down film and searching for answers to their top priority: boxing out the Thunder.
Oklahoma City is outrebounding Dallas by an average of eight a game with Monday's 22-point margin -- and 20-5 on the offensive glass -- particularly stinging. It would have been the most scrutinized angle in the 48 hours between games had the Thunder protected their 15-point lead with five minutes to go and evened the series.
Ending it Wednesday will take a supreme physical effort by the Mavs against the 20-something Thunder after their most taxing game of the postseason.
"I know we were all hurting. I was hurting. I was gassed," Chandler said. "It was one of those emotional nights. And, now we've got to hit them with the first punch."
The question is can the Mavs dial up a first blow? Will they have enough to keep Oklahoma City against the ropes or even land an early TKO as they did against the Lakers? Kidd played a playoff-high 41 minutes Monday night. Dirk Nowitzki logged 45 minutes. Shawn Marion chased Kevin Durant for 39 and Jason Terry hit 42. Even with first-half foul trouble, Chandler played 35 minutes.
"You can't trick your body," backup center Brendan Haywood said. "You can trick your mind, but you can't trick your body."
Carlisle seems concerned more with execution than fatigue-tainted effort.
"There's a laser-like focus with this group on doing whatever we can to get the next win," Carlisle said. "It's been a group that's believed in themselves all year long. We don't quit. We never give up."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.