Don’t look for any tricks, coach Rick Carlisle said with assurance Saturday.
When the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs is facing the top-seeded one — the team with the certain Hall of Fame coach and with one of the NBA’s all-time greats in the middle – ruses and coaching gimmicks just aren’t going to come into play.
“I don’t think there are any tricks,” Carlisle said before his Dallas Mavericks headed to San Antonio to face the Spurs in Sunday’s Game 1.
“The trick is we’ve got to play better. We’ve got different schemes and different things we can throw at them, but none of that stuff is top secret stuff.
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“It’s just doing the things you do better than them doing the things they do. That’s the challenge.”
It’s going to be a mighty challenge, no doubt. The Spurs swept the season series from the Mavericks and won 32 of 41 home games.
The odds are long — 77.3 percent of the teams winning Game 1 have gone on to win the series — but the math remains simple.
“Being the team that’s the road team in a playoff means you’ve got to win at least one on the road — that’s the obvious goal,” Carlisle said.
Down the season stretch, the Mavericks won six of their final seven away from home. So there’s that, even if Carlisle himself shrugged away that footnote Saturday.
“We had no choice,” he said. “We had to win.”
The Spurs, meanwhile, motored to the league’s best record with their customary robotic efficiency.
As Mavericks veteran Vince Carter put it, “We know how tough they are at home. They’re a machine.
“And everybody who steps into that machine is solid. They play hard. They do a good job. They play their role.”
To steal a victory in San Antonio — Game 2 is Wednesday night — Carter agreed with his head coach’s no-tricks approach.
“I don’t care what tricks we have up our sleeves,” Carter said. “If we don’t outplay them as far as playing hard, we don’t have a chance.
“That’s just the truth, regardless of the scheme.
“We have to play harder than them, regardless of who they put on the floor. That’s where our downfall was with them this season. We just didn’t match their intensity the whole time.”
Lose focus against the Spurs, especially on the defensive end, and even on a good night — as the Mavericks learned last month — you can lose by six.
“There are no gimmicks to beating a No. 1 seed in the playoffs,” Carlisle said. “You have to do basic things extremely well. You’ve got to have great energy. You’ve got to have consistency throughout your defensive possessions, because these guys keep playing and keep playing, and that’s where they get people.
“Our staying power on defensive possessions and rebounding the ball are going to be really big. We were minus-11 rebounds a game against these guys during the year, and we’ve got to make up that difference.”
Carlisle and Carter agreed that center Samuel Dalembert, one of the keys to the team’s return to the playoffs, must play an important, foul-free role.
“All of our bigs are important,” Carter said. “We have to be physical with them, utilize our length and box out regardless of who’s on the floor.
“We have to keep those guys off the glass, because they’re great with getting second chance points.”
As Carlisle said, coach Gregg Popovich’s Spurs feast on an opposing team’s defensive lapses. No coaching surprises or shooting spurts by Dirk Nowitzki or Monta Ellis are likely to overcome that in this series.
Carlisle even brushed aside a compliment Saturday and used it, instead, to praise Popovich.
“Pop is the best coach in the game,” Carlisle said. “For my money, he’s the best coach in history because of what he’s been able to do over a period of almost two decades.
“We’ve got to be top-to-bottom ready.”
He meant himself. The Spurs, Carlisle knows, won’t be tricked.