MEMPHIS, Tenn. — “The standings are 0-0.”
Although he is new to the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs rivalry, Monta Ellis is well aware that you can throw the regular-season series between the two squads out the window when they meet again in the playoffs.
With those words, Ellis disregarded the Mavericks’ 0-4 season series sweep at the hands of the top-seeded Spurs (62-20) following Dallas’ 106-105 overtime loss in Memphis on Wednesday to set up the first-round playoff series. And despite their nine straight losses to the Spurs, the Mavericks (49-33) are not by any stretch of the imagination conceding the series to their neighbors down south on Interstate 35.
“Yeah, we’ll be OK,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said immediately after the matchup was set following Wednesday’s overtime loss. “I feel good about our team. I really do. And (Wednesday night) is a great indication of the fight we have in us. We’re going to take that fight to San Antonio.”
“Well, I think eventually we’ll win one,” 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki added, “so why would it not be Game 1 or Game 2? I mean, we’re going down there and we’ve got to let it all rip in Game 1. We’ve got to compete like we did (Wednesday). What you’ve got to do against San Antonio is you’ve got to be a little smarter than we were in the last couple of outings. We feel like one little, two little mistakes and boom, it’s a three. A brutal missed boxout, pass out and three. Against that team you’ve got to be smart, you’ve got to execute perfectly and we’ve got to shoot the ball well. Obviously, they’re a very smart team defensively. They always take you out of what you want to do, and so we’ve got to get ready the next couple of days to have some counters ready, let it all out and see what happens.”
Nowitzki is set to face the Spurs in the playoffs for a sixth time in his 16-year career, leading the Mavs to two series wins in the previous five matchups. The last time the Mavs and Spurs met in the postseason, however, Dallas’ season ended six games into the first round back in 2010. The Mavs haven’t fared much better this season, losing by an average of 11.5 points in their four meetings against the Spurs and allowing 112.3 points an outing in the process.
Still, after finishing the regular season strong with six wins in their final seven road games, the Mavericks are confident that they can pull the upset.
“When we compete and when we grind, I like our chances anywhere,” Nowitzki said as the Mavs begin the series Sunday on the road. “We’ll just let it all hang out, but you know, they’re a great team. … They’ve been rolling, they’ve been shooting the ball well, and they’re definitely a good team. They’re definitely the favorites in this series. That’s pretty obvious. But we’re going in there to compete and see what happens.
“I think we’re in (the playoffs) pretty injury-free. That’s all you can hope for going into the playoffs. We’ve got a couple of days to rest and hopefully be fresh on Sunday, and like I said, just let it all rip. I feel like after the last couple of weeks we’ve been playing some good ball. We won some big games on the road, which should help us going into Game 1 and Game 2, and that’s what you live for — to just compete your (tail) off, just have fun doing it and just see what happens.”
Note: The Mavericks will now head to San Antonio to begin their first-round playoff series Sunday against the Spurs. San Antonio won the season series 4-0. Game 1 will air nationally on TNT and locally on TXA 21 at noon CT.
The series schedule is as follows:
Game 1: Dallas at San Antonio, noon CT on TNT and TXA 21, Sunday, April 20
Game 2: Dallas at San Antonio, 7 p.m. CT on NBA TV and TXA 21, Wednesday, April 23
Game 3: San Antonio at Dallas, 3:30 p.m. CT on TNT and TXA 21, Saturday, April 26
Game 4: San Antonio at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. CT on TNT and TXA 21, Monday, April 28
Game 5 (if necessary): Dallas at San Antonio CT, TBD, Wednesday, April 30
Game 6 (if necessary): San Antonio at Dallas CT, TBD, Friday, May 2
Game 7 (if necessary): Dallas at San Antonio CT, TBD, Sunday, May 4
Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs are on sale now. Tickets are available at the American Airlines Center box office, online at mavs.com or by calling (214) 747-MAVS. There is an eight-ticket limit per game.