Nobody on the Dallas Mavericks likes how their season ended.
It makes sense.
Nobody likes an old-fashioned whupping.
That is certainly what happened Sunday at the AT&T Center where the San Antonio Spurs showed no mercy in a 119-96 blowout victory that they dominated from start to finish.
The fact it happened in Game 7 of a Western Conference first-round playoff series made the outcome doubly tough for the Mavericks.
But with reflection comes clarity and not long after coming to grips with the finality of the loss, the Mavericks were able to show some appreciation for what they accomplished by making the playoffs with nine new faces on the roster.
And by taking No. 1-seeded Spurs to the brink of elimination, the Mavericks were able to leave San Antonio with their heads held high.
“We came to win,” forward Vince Carter said. “We didn’t do it, so it’s always tough. I don’t take losing too well, but it was great to be in it. I don’t think many people expected us to be here anyway.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. Once we established our playoff position, it was ‘let’s go fight and shock the world.’ I think we did that by the way we competed. It would be better to stand here with a victory, but I’m proud of this team. We believed and that’s what gave us a chance.”
The Mavericks believed when no one else did — especially considering the Spurs came into the playoffs riding a nine-game winning streak in the series that was extended to 10 with a victory in Game 1.
It was the Game 1 loss in which the Mavericks blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead that gave them confidence that they could not only compete with the Spurs, but win the series.
That game that slipped away is the one the Mavericks regret, because then they would not have had to face the buzzsaw they ran into in Game 7 with the Spurs at home, hitting on all cylinders and feeding off their crowd.
“Everybody had written us off at the beginning of the series,” forward Shawn Marion said. “We went wire to wire with this team. We easily could have won the series, just a couple of games could have gone our way
“It didn’t have to go the seven. It went that way. We went wire to wire with this team. They prevailed. We have to hold our head up high. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but we had a great season.”
Dirk Nowitzki said the better team usually prevails in a seven-game series, and the Spurs were worthy of moving on after a phenomenal performance Sunday that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle called their best of the season.
Seven of the Mavs’ nine newcomers saw action against the Spurs and were a big part of the push to the playoffs after missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2000.
The Mavericks got in because of a strong second half of the season, when the players began to jell and eventually put a first-round scare into the heavily favored Spurs.
“I thought we left it all out there,” Nowitzki said.
Flagrant foul rules
The Mavericks were called for two momentum-shifting flagrant fouls in Sunday’s loss.
DeJuan Blair was called for a flagrant against Manu Ginobili in the second quarter. It was part of 9-0 Spurs run that extended a 12-point lead to 21 and blew the game open.
Jae Crowder had one on Tony Parker in the third quarter that helped sustain a 20-point deficit.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declined to discuss the legitimacy of the calls, but said the NBA needs to re-evaluate how they handle flagrant fouls.
“What is happening now, and rightfully so, is the refs are going to call it a flagrant just so they could check it and that’s what they should do,” Cuban said. “What we need to do is come up with different terminology, because it gets everybody fired up.
“Rather than call it a flagrant, we should just say under review and just circle his finger so we can review and make a decision as opposed to getting the crowd, players and everybody freaked out when they hear the word flagrant.”