In life there are three things that are guaranteed: life, death and that the Golden State Warriors will beat my Dallas Mavericks. No I did not stutter. After Sunday’s first-round 97-85 Western Conference upset, Don Nelson and the Warriors have now won six straight games over his old pals. Long gone are the days of the Mavs actually owning the team by the bay.
So what gives and what the hell happened to the team everyone is favoring to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy in June? Believe me, I spent nearly five hours contemplating this very question early into Monday morning.
The answer is very simple. It is all about heart and mental fortitude. The mind games began in November when the Mavs got off to a very slow start and dropped their third straight game of the season to the Warriors in Dallas, 107-104. This game marked the return of Nelson, who had coached the Mavs from 1997-2005. There he turned a joke of a franchise into a legitimate playoff force year in and year out. No, the Mavs were never title contenders under Nellie’s watch, but they were a fun team to watch.
These two squads did not meet again until March 12, when the Mavs carried an NBA season-high 17-game win streak into Oakland. A night after beating the Lakers by 36, the Warriors once again had the upper hand, this time in a 117-100 blowout.
Even after these two losses the mindset that head coach Avery Johnson and the rest of the Mavs had was that the Warriors kept catching the Mavs at the right time and that come playoff time, if a potential match up were ever to occur, the outcome would be different.
On April 17, the final match up of the season was lack for a better word, meaningless. The Mavs had already sealed their playoff fate. Home court throughout the playoffs was theirs while the Warriors were still battling for their playoff lives. Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier all sat out for the Mavs and thus the Warriors won 11-82. No surprise.
After 82 games, when all was said and done, it was a Mavs-Warriors first round series. Number one seed versus number eight. Did they scare me? You bet your butt they did. Did the Mavs act concerned? Not really.
So of course when Sunday’s events went down it was not surprising, but oh so very disappointing. Dallas is a team that is built for a championship while Golden State is just lucky to be in the playoffs. The Warriors are talented and possess a team that is full of athletic guards and forwards. There is no doubt the midseason trade they made to acquire Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington has made them even more dangerous. This team is an experiment that Nellie is still poking and probing with and now the nation is seeing the dividends.
I am the biggest Mavs fan you will ever see. I have followed this team since 1992 when most kids my age were riding the highs of #23 (Michael Jordan). I have seen the very bottom and nearly reached the pinnacle last season in the NBA Finals. Yet I have never been so scared as I am right now. The unthinkable is merely three games from happening. I wear my emotions on my sleeve with this team, and I can’t imagine what this would do psychologically for me if things don’t turn around.
In the end I still have faith that the better team will win. The playoffs are always full of adversity. They say this is just a game, but if you bleed blue and green like myself, life is not so fun right now.