Two years ago, as they sorta, kinda reminded us before the game, the Dallas Mavericks pushed a championship-bound Spurs team to seven games.
And even in being swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder during the regular season, as they also reminded us, two of the defeats were only by three points.
And, hey, what about Monday night against Utah, a performance they had to have in a game the Mavericks had to win?
All well and good.
But these, alas, were the thin straws that the Mavericks had to cling to before Saturday night’s playoff opener against the Thunder.
And before two minutes had elapsed in Game 1, it was every man for himself.
The franchise record book tells us that the most embarrassing playoff defeat in Mavericks history was a 43-point drubbing by the Los Angeles Lakers. But that was back in 1984, before the Dick Motta-coached Mavericks had earned the street cred to be embarrassed by anything.
Plus, the 43-point hammering came just two days after Moody Madness, that draining, memorable, overtime Game 5 win over Seattle.
There should be no footnotes, no asterisks, therefore, attached to Saturday’s 108-70 defeat. Only a late rally, of sorts, by the Mavericks’ bench against the Thunder reserves kept this one out of the record book.
No “yeah, buts.” This was just one talented and superstar-laden Oklahoma City team, primed for a playoff run, against a Mavericks gang whose talent-thin ranks have been further diminished by injuries. Coach Rick Carlisle called his team last week the “Masking Tape Mavs.”
As it turns out, it was an insult to masking tape.
Barely two minutes into Saturday’s game, Andre Roberson drove the lane for a layup to make it 9-0 for the Thunder.
It was far from the kind of start that Carlisle had hoped for.
“We’re just going to have to find the right tempo, and I don’t know exactly what that’s going to be,” he said before the game. “But I know it’s got to involve taking care of the ball and getting back on defense.
“I think it’s impossible to play a playoff series in a slow-down mode, just because teams lock in so much defensively it’ll be very difficult to get shots.”
He wasn’t kidding. The Mavericks didn’t crack double digits until 35 seconds remained in the first quarter.
By halftime they trailed 59-33 and the dumpster was in full blaze.
Guard J.J. Barea, who had been bothered by a groin strain, was forced to leave the game for the Mavericks and never returned.
The Mavericks shot 26.2 percent (11 of 42) from the field in the first half — that isn’t a misprint — and were out-rebounded 30-15.
With 4:43 left in the third quarter, a Kevin Durant free throw extended the Oklahoma City lead to 77-42. But more significantly, it meant that Durant and Russell Westbrook had a combined 43 points and together were outscoring the Mavs.
Durant and Westbrook, of course, are always a load to contend with. When asked before the game how he hoped to defense Durant, Carlisle answered, half in jest, “Hope he misses shots.”
“He’s a great player,” Carlisle continued. “There’s no way to stop him, so we’re just going to have to be persistent, going to have to be very focused as a team, to help out whoever is guarding him.
“It’s a series for us that is going to be rooted in our persistence.”
That hope unraveled quickly, however. Dirk Nowitzki was the only one whose persistence showed any traction. He finished with 18 points, but was the only Maverick to score in double figures.
Take out Dirk’s points, and the Mavericks shot 18 of 69 (26.1 percent).
Westbrook, meanwhile finished with 24, Durant had 23 points, and they only had to log 30 and 26 minutes, respectively, which doesn’t bode well for the Mavericks for the rest of the series.
All those straws that the underdog Mavericks were clinging to before Saturday proved to be embarrassingly thin.
They avoided the record book, but couldn’t hide from the Thunder.
They’re going to need more masking tape.