The Mavericks are facing their first potential elimination game of this year’s playoffs tonight at American Airlines Center.
Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals is upon them and of course the stakes, the pressure and the tension go up another level when you are down 3-2 and trying to defend your home court.
“We’re happy to be here,” Luka Dončić said Thursday morning after the Mavericks’ shootaround. “It’s this game, and then we can play the Game 7 and win that one. It’s a big challenge. We like challenges, and I think the mood is great.”
The Mavericks have not lost at AAC since the playoff opener nearly a month ago against Utah. They’ve won four in a row on the home floor since and need to keep that streak intact to extend the season.
There’s no way to overstate the nerve-wracking nature of a win-or-go-home game. It’s something that all the Mavericks are going to have respect – and then forget about once they step on the court.
“In every playoffs, there’s always intensity,” Dončić said. “Everybody’s trying to win, so there’s always going to be tension. So I’m not surprised. Even in Europe, there was a lot of tension, too. So this is normal for playoff basketball.”
And with that tension will come emotional play. Physical play. Do-anyth9ng-to-win kind of play.
It’s the kind of stage that Dončić has excelled on before. He has averaged points and 11.5 assists in the two elimination games that the Mavericks have played in the past two seasons.
He’d trade it all if they had won them. But they did not.
“I like those games,” Luka said. “You know, before for the game you have that feeling, like butterflies in your stomach. I like that feeling. Basketball feeling is a great feeling for me.
“And I’ve learned we’ve just got to stick together. I know I’ve been in a lot of those games, especially in Europe and with the national team. And when we’re winning it’s a lot of fun, so I hope I’m on that side again.”
So do 20,000 Maverick fans packing into AAC in a few hours.