When the Dallas Mavericks opened the playoffs in 2011, Marion was one of the team’s star forwards who heard many of the so-called experts predicting the Mavs didn’t have a shooter’s chance against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. After all, the Blazers had a stacked roster headed by LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews, Marcus Camby and others.
The Blazers were so stacked that some teams were doing everything they could to avoid opening the playoffs against Portland. Even today, Marion said: “I think, all things aside, Portland was probably one of the most talented teams in the playoffs – period — from top to bottom.”
However, Marion said the Mavs always had a secret weapon they always turned to in times of need.
“When a good team is playing against a team that’s supposed to be better than them, most of the time if you really have those kinds of players on your team, we raise our level of play to the level of the team we’re playing,” he said. “And we’re going to try and even it, or we’re going to top it.”
That’s the situation the 2019-20 version of the Mavs find themselves in. Not many – if any – of the so-called experts are giving the Mavs a shooter’s chance to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers in a first-round best-of-seven playoff series that starts Monday at 8 p.m. inside the bubble in Orlando.
Some of them probably already have the Clippers’ championship parade route mapped out near L. A. Live. But putting the cart before the horse is probably the worst thing a person can do.
“People just won’t give us the respect we deserve,” Marion said. “A lot of time analysts and people get it wrong. All the time.
“The biggest part is people who talk about the game and think they know all that, they don’t really know (anything) about the game itself in the first place.
“The Mavs are a special team, and anything can happen in this run.”
By no means is Marion taking anything away from the Clippers. He knows Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are two of the Top players in the game today. He knows the Clippers are arguably the deepest team in the bubble who play rock ‘em sock ‘em defense.
But Marion also knows the Mavs have one of the Top 5 players in the game today in Luka Doncic, and they have another young rising star in Kristaps Porzingis, who made the All-Star team in 2018 when he was just 22 years old. In addition, Marion knows the Mavs’ offense is on such a lofty level that it finished the regular season with the most efficient offense in the history of the NBA.
“Our offense is elite right now, so that gives us more than a fighting chance,” Marion said. “They’ve got to match up with us. If we get hot from the 3-point line it’s going to be hard for them.”
And to give Mavs’ followers something else to digest, Marion repeated a mantra that general managers and coaches around the NBA already know. And that is nobody makes in-game adjustments better than Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
Marion saw that first-hand in 2011 when, after dispatching the Blazers in six games, the Mavs swept Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the playoffs. From there, the Mavs sent Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder fishing after five games in the Western Conference Finals.
From there, when the Mavs met LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, again the so-called experts thumb their nose at the Mavs and gave them a real good chance at maybe winning one game in that series. Marion and his teammates took that as an insult.
But after falling behind 2-1 in the series, Carlisle made the series’ biggest adjustment when he inserted J J Barea into the starting lineup for Game 4. The Mavs won the final three games and the series in six games, enabling Dirk Nowitzki to sing his own off-key version of “We Are The Champions.”
“Even though Jason Kidd was our on the floor coach, Carlisle had a vast amount of knowledge in knowing exactly who to sub in and when to sub in at certain times and crucial points of the game all throughout the playoffs,” Marion said. “He did an amazing job knowing who to put in just at the nick of time to stir something up or give us a spark here and there.
“When you’re able to see certain things that you’re able to take advantage of, that’s when you make adjustments. That’s what the playoffs are about.”
The playoffs, Marion said, are also about an important ingredient the Mavs may want to pay attention to in this series against the Clippers.
“Everybody talks about the starters, but you’re only going to go as far as your bench takes you, because the starters can only do so much,” Marion said. “That’s why everybody has to contribute.
“You’re going to need everybody on the roster contributing, because you don’t know when your number will be called, but be ready. Everybody’s got to buy in.”
Another intangible that could work in the Mavs’ favor, according to Marion, is that all the pressure is on the Clippers, because only a small few are giving the Mavs any chance at winning this series. That means the Mavs can just go out and let it rip and see what happens.
In other words, Marion noted that it may be best not to count out the Mavs. He remembers how folks counted then out in 2011, and he, of course, remembers how that turned out in the Mavs’ favor.
“I think the Mavs do have a chance, and anything is possible,” Marion said. “I’m not putting anything pass anybody. I think we’re a special team, and I think anything can happen.
“The Mavs can score the hell out of the ball. Hot teams win championships to a certain degree. We all have to put our shoes on one foot at a time, so hopefully the Mavs can do something. Let’s throw it up.”