Mavs downplay underdog role entering series with Spurs

Practice Report: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki says the first-round series against the Spurs will be a great but fun challenge, and that these types of battles are the reason he keeps playing the game.

DALLAS — Although they can’t ignore their recent history against the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks are by no means writing themselves off as many so-called experts seem to be heading into the two teams’ Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Playing the role of the underdog, the Mavericks (49-33) will undoubtedly have to play their best basketball of the season in order to take down the top-seeded Spurs (62-20) in the best-of-seven series. Still, even despite a nine-game losing streak against San Antonio and four-game season series sweep at the hands of the Spurs, the Mavs are confident going into Sunday’s Game 1 that they have a chance to do what naysayers are classifying as impossible.

“It doesn’t really matter what everyone else says or thinks,” 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki matter-of-factly said following the Mavs’ Friday practice. “I figured (NBA analyst and former Spur) Bruce Bowen would pick the Spurs. We know we haven’t really played well against them the last couple of outings, especially this year. We haven’t played well in their building down there, so we’re preparing and we want to play our best game that we’ve played this year against them. I think we’ve had some good outings on the road against other teams, but we haven’t put it together down there yet. So, you know, we’re working hard and trying to be ready for our best game against these guys yet.”

Despite their recent history against the Spurs, the Mavs believe they’re very capable of capturing one of two games in San Antonio to seize the home-court advantage before the scene shifts to American Airlines Center. The Mavericks will also try to build on their recent success away from home, capturing six consecutive road wins prior to Wednesday’s 106-105 overtime defeat in Memphis to close the regular season.

Meanwhile, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle hopes to rely on the veteran presence of Nowitzki, sixth man Vince Carter and four-time All-Star Shawn Marion to carry his team during the pivotal series. And while looking to prove that they’re not simply just another eighth seed, the Mavericks will try to raise their level of play as the championship chase begins.

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle says the team has to take it up another notch against the Spurs but keep their approach simple and limit turnovers to be successful.

“You know, we’ve got to stay process-oriented with this,” Carlisle explained. “Our guys have been through a lot of big games collectively. You know, I was joking with Nowitzki and Carter and Marion when those three guys were doing a stretching thing and I was kind of near them. I said, ‘Hey, between the four of us we’ve got like 90 years of NBA experience,’ and so it’s pretty simple. To win a series against a team that’s heavily-favored you’ve got to do the little things great, the energy has got to be terrific and you’ve got to make plays. We’re looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge. That’s a hard place to play down there, but that’s OK. That’s what this time of year is all about.”

“Like I said, we’ve had some nice road wins here lately,” Nowitzki added. “We’ve been playing a little better than a couple of months ago on the road, especially, so we’ll just go down there and let it all rip and just compete on both ends of the floor. You’ve got to do everything hard against that team. Even if you’re on offense you’ve got to compete, because they try to take a lot of your stuff away. They obviously scout us and a lot of the plays we run they’re going to sit on. You’ve got to make cuts hard and you’ve got to drive hard, so you’ve got to compete on both ends of the floor. If we do that, I like our chances.”

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 or by calling (214) 747-MAVS. There is an eight-ticket limit per game.