The Mavericks are in the enviable position of having two games to win one and advance to the Western Conference semifinals.
Which is the totally wrong way of looking at this thing.
They may be up 3-2 against the Los Angeles Clippers going into Game 6 Friday night, which should be a crazy, rocking show at American Airlines Center.
But the appropriate way of viewing this is as a do-or-die, all-or-nothing proposition. Whatever has to be done needs to happen.
And that includes sacrificing for everybody.
If the Clippers come out and trap Luka Dončić before he gets to midcourt, the Mavericks’ superstar has to trust his teammates.
If Boban Marjanović gets in foul trouble, Dwight Powell, Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber have to clog the paint.
If the Clippers continue to drape players over Porzingis and Hardaway, they have to either attack the basket with sharp cuts or draw the defense outside the 3-point arc so Luka and Jalen Brunson and others can go to work.
Sacrifice. Like they did in the Game 5 win at Los Angeles. Do all that, and something really weird, like winning on their home floor, could happen.
“It’s tough – if you want to try to win in the playoffs, the sacrifices that everyone has to make are enormous,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “So that was obviously very important (in Game 5).”
It started with Porzingis, who got only six shots in Game 5. To put that in perspective, he averaged more than 16 shots per game in the past two regular seasons.
“He (Porzingis) didn’t get a lot of touches because they were hugging him the entire time when he spotted up, but the three he hit in the right corner in the fourth quarter was arguably the biggest shot of the year.
“So hat’s off to him for being willing to make that sacrifice.”
Porzingis averaged 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in last year’s playoff series against the Clippers before injury knocked him out after three games.
This year, he’s averaging 13.8 points and 4.4 rebounds.
It’s taken some getting used to. But being ahead in the series helps make it more sense for Porzingis.
“I think practicing patience, whenever things don’t work out how you expect or how you want them to work out, just stay in the moment, stay calm,” Porzingis said about his new approach this series. “I matured a lot in these two years and I also think that that shows on the court.
“Always, there’s something new and just a kid from Latvia learning stuff and going through life.”
Part of that manifested itself in Porzingis occupying one of the Clippers’ best defenders in the corner, away from the action. That allowed Luka and friends to operate four-on-four.
And for the better part of four quarters, that’s what Porzingis did.
Then, his time came, when he buried the 3-pointer with the game and maybe the season on the line.
“I was in the corner most of the time, just stretching the floor,” he said. “As I said, doing what’s best for the team, what’s necessary for the team, what they’re asking me and staying ready, staying ready if I do need to be involved and making a shot or doing whatever. Just that’s it. Just here to do whatever we need to to win.”
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