Mavs showed they can compete against NBA’s best

DALLAS — They were the only team to push the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs during this year’s playoffs, but the Dallas Mavericks take no satisfaction in moral victories.

Capturing a 2-1 first-round series lead after sixth man Vince Carter’s game-winning 3-pointer as time expired in Game 3 to lift Dallas to a 109-108 victory, the Mavericks would go down as the only team to take a series advantage on the Spurs this postseason. The Mavs would also push the Spurs to the brink of elimination while forcing a decisive Game 7.

And although they didn’t leave the court simply satisfied with their effort after falling to a 119-86 defeat in the crucial seventh showdown, the eighth-seeded Mavs still had plenty of reasons to hold their heads up high.

“I like what we did,” 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said. “I like what we did to get into the playoffs; to battle, the excitement we showed and the fight we showed. I definitely like that. And I like the fight we showed for the first six games (against the Spurs), giving them nothing easy, making them work for everything and sweat it out at least until Game 7. But Game 7 was a tough one. That’s for sure.”

“Everyone counted us out from Day 1 to even get here, and [Game 7] felt like a championship game,” new addition Monta Ellis added. “It was a great experience and everybody was on board. I’m very proud of what we did and what we overcame. We came together as a team and took the best team in the NBA to a dogfight all the way to the end.”

The Spurs went 12-4 through the rest of the playoffs while storming through Portland, Oklahoma City and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat en route to the title. But it’s the Mavericks that put up the most resistance of the four teams as the Southwest Division rivalry was renewed.

Bringing together nine new faces during training camp, the Mavericks seemed to jell at the right time while showing that they could compete against the league’s best team. Still, the Mavs acknowledge that they fell short in their pursuit of a second title in franchise history. And three years removed from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy above their heads for the first time, the Mavericks enter the offseason with plans to build on their year’s shortcomings.

“I think you’re always disappointed when the season ends. It doesn’t matter when,” Mavs point guard Jose Calderon confessed. “It was tough. You always try to be positive about everything. … Nobody maybe gave us a chance to be in the playoffs. Nobody gave us [a chance] to get to seven games, so that’s the positive part. I think we’re close to being a really good team. I think we’re pretty close and we showed that in this series. We just need to play a little bit better and stay together, but at the end of the day we showed that we’re right there to compete against everybody in this league and to be a really good team.”