DALLAS — Unable to dismiss the disappointment following a lackluster performance in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks still held their heads up high as they headed into the offseason.
Bringing together nine new faces in training camp, the Mavericks proved many naysayers wrong this season while returning the franchise back to the playoffs following a 49-33 campaign. They then pushed the top-seeded Spurs to the brink of elimination before falling to a 119-96 defeat in Game 7.
Still, it’s the fight the Mavs showed this season that stuck out in their minds entering the summer.
“I like what we did,” 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said. “I like what we did to get into the playoffs; to battle, the excitement we showed and the fight we showed. I definitely like that. And I like the fight we showed for the first six games, giving them nothing easy, making them work for everything and sweat it out at least until Game 7. But Game 7 was a tough one. That’s for sure.”
Taking a 2-1 series lead following a 109-108 win at home over the Spurs thanks to sixth man Vince Carter’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Game 3, the Mavericks showed plenty of fight while putting the Spurs at their only disadvantage thus far this postseason. Perhaps more importantly, the Mavs established a gritty foundation for seasons to come, looking to keep the team intact while building on the fight that was showcased this year.
And with their Game 7 defeat serving as motivation for next season, the Mavericks will try to continue this year’s success by showing just as much fight going forward.
“We fought throughout the year, and it’s very rare that you end the season the way you want to,” reserve guard Devin Harris explained. “Obviously, the Game 7 was probably something we’ll try to forget as quickly as we can. … I mean, it’s hard to jell with nine new faces. If we come back with familiarity, I think we’ll hit the ground running, as opposed to implementing guys in different ways. I mean, we know each other better, we know what we like and we know how to be successful.”
“With a group of a lot of new guys, guys came together in relatively short order and we had a very positive run,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle added. “You know, I thought the last month of the season was a lot of big games just to qualify for the playoffs and put ourselves in a position to compete hard in this series. And you know, the last game was disappointing, but I just love the way the team battled all year long. So, we’ll work to try to keep the team together the best that we can, and from there we’ll try to make the team better any other way that we see fit.”