Some people will look at the Mavericks’ Game 4 win in the Western Conference finals as merely delaying the inevitable.
But there’s a significant faction that includes those in the Mavericks’ locker room who look at it in another way:
Extending the ecstasy.
The Mavericks still have head firmly attached to snake. And any snake can bite you if you don’t respect it.
The Mavericks still are down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, but a lot of NBA teams have won a series from a 3-1 hole (it’s been done 13 times). So forget about those stats regarding teams that drop into a 3-0 abyss.
The Mavericks aren’t there anymore. They now are a free-wheeling team that has no pressure on it because they weren’t supposed to be here in the first place.
And remember, the longer a series goes, the more craziness that can transpire. The Warriors of 2016 were up 3-1 on Cleveland in the NBA finals and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers rallied to win the series.
It can happen.
Extending the ecstasy. That’s the Mavericks’ mantra now.
“We got to believe,” Luka Dončić said. “We’re going to believe until the end.”
To hear that coming from the superstar point guard means something. He went through a very similar path to win the EuroLeague championship in 2018.
Before winning that title with Real Madrid, Dončić was eliminated in the semifinals of the previous year’s playoffs. In 2015-16, Real Madrid was swept in the first round. Dončić was 16 years old for most of that season and averaged 3.5 points in 11 games.
The point is that this is a process. And there’s nothing that says the process has to get interrupted Thursday in Game 5. The Warriors have not lost a home game in the playoffs, but they did lose 10 times at Chase in the regular season.
So invincible they are not.
If nothing else, the Mavericks have already landed a blow in the gamesmanship department. After their 119-109 win in Game 4, coach Jason Kidd talked about the Warriors’ defense, which included a heavy dose of zone.
“It’s a matter about making shots,” Kidd said. “The biggest compliment we’ve gotten is they got to play zone because they can’t play us one on one, right?
“This is a championship DNA team. They’re giving you a compliment that they can’t guard you. It’s pretty cool. They’re winning the series, but we believe if we can continue to keep getting the shots we got, if we can make them, it puts pressure on them.”
And you can be certain that the Warriors have no desire to return to American Airlines Center for a Game 6, which would be on Saturday if it is necessary.
The Warriors also don’t want the Mavericks to catch fire from 3-point range. That’s what happened in Game 4. They shot wonderfully from beyond the arc. And they also are working with the knowledge that they were ahead by 17 points early in the third quarter of Game 2.
So without a lot of imagination, the Mavericks could be tied 2-2 at this point.
“Game 2, we had a big lead, we should have won the game,” said Maxi Kleber. “We gave it away. Game 3, we didn’t shoot well. We have the power to beat them. We just have to stay confident.”
And that confidence breeds when Kleber and Reggie Bullock and others are making 3-point shots, which they did Tuesday.
Another hot-handed game like that and the Mavericks will have a fighting chance of getting this series back to Dallas.