If the Dallas Mavericks read a newspaper, watch TV or listen to talk radio, they probably think they have a better chance of winning the Texas Lottery than beating the San Antonio Spurs in the upcoming playoffs.
In recent years the Spurs have dominated the Mavericks, winning all four games this season and nine in a row dating to the 2011-12 season. But the Mavericks insist the disparity between the two clubs is not as wide as the Gulf of Mexico.
“It doesn’t really matter what everybody else says or thinks,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said after Friday’s practice. “I figure [ESPN analyst and ex-Spurs guard] Bruce Bowen will 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 we’ve played this year against them.”
The No. 8-seeded Mavericks (49-33) and No. 1-seeded Spurs (62-20) will play Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series at noon Sunday at AT&T Center in San Antonio. Game 2 will also be in San Antonio, at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The series then shifts to American Airlines Center for Game 3 on 3:30 p.m. April 26, and Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. April 28.
If necessary, Game 5 will be in San Antonio on April 30, Game 6 in Dallas on May 2 and Game 7 back at the AT&T Center on May 4.
Asked if he had grown weary of listening to how huge of an underdog his team is against the Spurs, coach Rick Carlisle said: “I don’t really listen to that stuff. Our attention’s got to be to preparing our guys and making sure that we are getting enough rest, and that we’re going to be fresh, and that we have a simple, effective strategy for playing better, because we just haven’t played well against these guys.”
This season the Spurs beat the Mavs twice in Dallas — 116-107 on Dec. 26 and 109-100 on April 10. And they beat them twice in San Antonio — 112-90 on Jan. 8 and 112-106 on March 2.
No matter what method the Spurs use to carve up the Mavericks, Dallas hasn’t had an effective counterpunch.
“To win a series against a team that’s heavily favored, you’ve got to do the little things great, your energy’s got to be terrific, and you’ve got to make plays,” Carlisle said. “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 the year is all about.”
Forward Shawn Marion laughed at the notion that the Mavericks have no chance at dethroning the Spurs in this series.
“That’s OK, we’re ready,” the 15-year veteran said. “This is a new season, a clean slate right now.
“Right now don’t nobody have a victory in the postseason yet. We’re both going into the postseason undefeated right now and that’s all that matters.”
Both the Mavericks and Spurs have some unfortunate history in matchups between a No. 1 and No. 8 seed. In 2007, the Mavericks became the first No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose a best-of-seven series to a No. 8 seed when they were upset by the Don Nelson-coached Golden State Warriors in six games.
The Spurs became the second No. 1 seed to lose a best-of-seven series to a No. 8 seed when the Memphis Grizzlies eliminated them in six games in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs.
The only other time a No. 1 seed dropped a best-of-seven series to a No. 8 seed came in 2012, when eighth-seeded Philadelphia upended top-seeded Chicago in six games.
To become the fourth No. 8 seed to send a No. 1 seed packing in a best-of-seven series, the Mavericks realize they must be in tune and prepared to play their best basketball of the season. The challenge, the Mavericks know, is enormous.
“We’ve got to be smart,” Nowitzki said. “We know they’re going to execute on both ends of the floor.
“We’ve got to use our basketball IQ this series, but it should be a fun challenge against probably the hottest or the best team right now in the league.”