The weight of the world will be on the shoulders of the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday as they start a journey that no team has successfully completed.
The Mavs trail their playoff series against the Houston Rockets 3-0. Game 4 is at 8 p.m. at American Airlines Center.
No team in NBA history has climbed out of a 3-0 hole and won a best-of-seven series.
But the Mavs believe they are just the team that can shock the world, rewrite history and do the unthinkable.
“History is always made to be broken,” center Tyson Chandler said. “That’s the way I look at it.
“But you can’t win four games in one night. We’ve got to do a good job of making sure we take it game by game.”
Only three teams in NBA history that were down 3-0 have stretched a series to a Game 7. And the Mavericks are on the bad end of that scenario.
Dallas won the first three games of their 2003 first-round playoff series against Portland, only to see the Trail Blazers battle back and win the next three to force a Game 7. And in Game 7 at American Airlines Center, the Mavericks had to fight to hold on to win 107-95 behind 31 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals from Dirk Nowitzki.
Starting with Game 4, the Mavericks are hoping some of that magic Portland had to reach a Game 7 in ’03 gets sprinkled in their direction. They’re holding out hope that they can win this series and gain a spot in the Guinness World Records.
“Everybody talks about history and how it’s never been done,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Someday, somebody’s going to do it, and it was almost done.
“I know the Mavericks were involved in a series with Portland in the early 2000s. Dallas was up 3-0, Portland clawed their way back into it and had a lead at halftime of Game 7.”
Actually, the Blazers led the Mavericks 90-88 in Game 7 with 4:43 remaining before the Mavericks outscored them 19-5 the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Mavericks know they can’t fathom a Game 7 until they win Game 4 … and Games 5 and 6.
“But to give ourselves a chance to [win this series] we’ve got to win Game 4,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to come back and fight our butts off, which our guys will do.
“And play better, which we will do.”
The Mavericks lost Game 3 at home Friday 130-128, which is one of the reasons they’re in this backs-to-the-wall predicament.
The 128 points were the most in 21 years by a team that lost a playoff game in regulation.
In the meantime, the Mavericks insist Game 4 is more than just about trying to avoid being swept and avoid having the season end on their home court by a divisional rival they detest. They also claim they’re playing for more than just pride.
On the other side, the Rockets are aware that the Mavericks are not going to mail it in the rest of this series and head to the nearest beach.
They also know the close-out game is historically the most difficult game of a playoff series.
“We play one game on Sunday, we don’t play three games on Sunday,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Believe it or not, it’s the most important game of the year. That’s the way you play this game. I tell you guys this all the time, we play one game on Sunday and we’ve just got to go and play it well.”
That’s precisely what the Mavericks are also saying.
“I know it’s tough for teams to come back being down 0-3, but you’ve still got to be competitive, still got to compete,” center/forward Amar’e Stoudemire said. “It’s the game of basketball. We all played this game as kids growing up and wanted to compete at this high level, so every night you’ve got to bring it.”
Especially when behind 0-3 in a best-of-seven series.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760