The frustration from the folks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was definitely evident on Wednesday night when the Dallas Mavericks came up short in a 117-116 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, which means the losing team will settle for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference of the NBA playoffs and take on the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Put simply, the first game should be interesting considering the two teams’ recent history and really recent history.
The Spurs and Mavericks have battled through an awkward “rivalry” over the past decade that really only meant something to a handful of Mavs fans who were tired of being the “little brother” in the I-35 series. But since Dallas beat San Antonio in the 2006 playoffs and then finally won a title in 2011, there hasn’t been much of a rivalry, although there really wasn’t much of one to begin with. Considering that, their last nine meetings and the ending to the Mavericks’ regular season, Game 1 will likely be sketchy, to say the least.
Dallas is extremely deflated right now. Tweets like “So, four games left? Got it” were common from the Mavs’ faithful after the loss to Memphis and that frustrated, helpless feeling was evident on the faces of the players after the game. Sure, Monta Ellis has been playing extremely well lately, but his two misses on potential game-winning shots against the Grizzlies seemed to have really cut him, his team and its fans deep.
Ironically, these are the only two teams to have lost as No. 1 seeds in the history of the NBA playoffs since all the series were extended to seven games, so there’s that. But there’s also the fact the Spurs have beaten the Mavs nine straight times and have been on cruise control since the All-Star break while Dallas has fought for the final playoff spot in the West while going 17-11 over that same stretch.
Dallas was so focused on winning that final game just to avoid playing the Spurs in the first round that the first game of the series is bound to see a slow start by the visiting team. Considering the Spurs’ depth, consistent defensive intensity, ball movement and momentum, the Mavs’ only hope of winning Game 1 is Dirk Nowitzki turning back the clock again and going off on one of his Dirk-like games in which he carries his team to victory over a better team. However, that just doesn’t seem likely at this point.
Having said that, if Rick Carlisle and enough of the Mavs players enter the game with a “bring it on” mindset, then things could get dicey in the second half for the Spurs. That’s a best-case scenario for Dallas, and the Mavs absolutely must win this first game to have a chance at upsetting the defending Western Conference champs in the series.
If you’re a Mavs optimist, watch Game 1 with hope. If you’re not completely optimistic at this point, don’t waste your time.