Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Never Underestimate a Team Like the Warriors

OK, so I’m sitting here pondering how the Mavericks could still take the series.

People have talked a lot about Dirk getting on track, and that’s certainly an important point––not only does he have to start scoring for Dallas to win the series, but he’s practically bound to start scoring, since he’s had four games in a row where he hasn’t. My brother Jeremy made a comment recently about the Mavericks being a horse that has to run from behind. I think you have to pin that on Dirk, since he’s the consistent thread over their last 6 playoffs.

Here’s something that occurs to me: in Dirk’s career, Dallas has never been a heavy favorite to win a championship until their last two playoff series, and they've crumbled in both of them. When they have nothing to lose, they can do some remarkable things. But faced with the pressure of living up to what they know (at least in theory) that they’re capable of, they have gone oh-for-one, and they’re on the verge of oh-for-two.

So the two key questions are: Are they far enough behind for a switch to flip? And are they too far behind for it to matter?

Acknowledging that Dallas is utterly responsible for making something happen the rest of this series, there is one other possibility for the Mavericks winning in 7: Golden State could still, quite plausibly, experience a total melt-down, and come apart at the seams.

DallasBasketball.com had a story last week suggesting this, and truehoop puts things in perspective as well. And I think it’s true: Golden State clearly has got a ton of talent, but they’re also (1) injury-prone and (2) full of head-cases; well, we only know that Jackson is nuts, but there’s also a look in Davis’ eyes, and something about the perpetual creepy grin on his face, to where nothing he would do could surprise me. This series, for Golden State, depends on these guys holding it together. But that’s not a given.

This sounds like a really lame cop-out, and perhaps it is, but everyone knows psychology is part of the game. If being tough were just physical, then no one would ever blame a player for not being tough enough, right?

The fact is, it’s really difficult to maintain intensity and composure at the same time. Ask Jason Terry about punching Michael Finley in the playoffs last year, and then getting suspended for a game the Mavericks lost. Ask Jackson and Davis how they got themselves thrown out of the game last weekend. Ask Dirk why he looks like he’s ready to punch someone when he gets knocked to the ground but doesn’t get a foul call––and then looks like a beaten child when he can’t come up with any way to channel his aggression.

Back to the Mavericks: tonight will be the defining moment for these guys for a long, long time if they lose. Dirk, Terry, and Howard, unless one of them explodes for 40 or something, will never live down a home defeat tonight, and neither will Avery, unless/until they win a championship some other season.

My prediction: I’m not going to guess whether Dirk will start scoring or not, but unless Dallas wins in a blow-out, I’m putting my money on him taking 30 shots, make-or-miss. No way he gets more than 3 assists. And throw in 16 rebounds for good measure.


JKnott said...

You may be right about what will happen, but I'm not so sure it's what SHOULD happen.

On Sunday, Josh Howard was the best player in the game in the first half. In the second, he almost never got the ball and never had any plays called for him. Why? Sure, he had a tendency in the reg.season to play best early, but why not at least keep going to him until he stops scoring? Why, moreover, do so many think that Dirk needs to score when all that does is tell GS that they can double and triple him and forget everyone else?

The fact is, as good as Dirk is as a team player, and as good as he can be 1-on-1, creating his own shot when he's double teamed is not his game. On Sunday he did a decent job of passing out of the doubles and getting shots for his teammates (even if they had to make an extra pass). Why not keep doing that as long as it works? What happened on Sunday, among other things, is that they STOPED doing that, and tried to put it in Dirk's hands and let him take a shot, doubled up or not. Even Kobe has trouble winning games like that!

You may be right, because too many in the league and in the talking heads think in cliche's ("Your superstar has to win it for you," etc.). So Avery and Dirk and the rest will think that even if it doesn't work, they HAVE to rely on Dirk to win it, even if he's triple teamed every time, so at least none of the cliche-mongers will blame them. If they do that, I predict not only a loss, but a blowout.

micah said...

I think Josh Howard should take a large part of the blame for last game along with Dirk. 2 points in the second half is embarassing. I don't care if you didn't have any plays called for you. Both of those guys need to show up tonight for 4 quarters. It is frustrating to remember that all of our offense in the second half came from Terry and Stackhouse, not our 2 all-stars.

scoots said...

Intesting points. My thought is: hopefully Howard, Terry, and Harris can be aggressive enough that it’s not worth the Warriors’ while to double- and triple-team Dirk. If the whole team can get rolling, everyone will get theirs, and Dirk will get most. That’s a best-case scenario, of course.

I like the idea of focusing on Howard. He’s the same kind of player as most of the guys on the Warriors, only he’s better than most of them, so he should be able to do something in the lane.

Jeremy said...

What is really killing the Mavs right now is the beard gap.

Jeremy said...

The Dirk haters are piling on and the game hasn't even started.

Has there ever before been a guy whose entire career was riding on a single game?