Even if you’ve been following along, watching the Dallas Mavericks tread water since January, from the Parsons injuries to the D-Will injuries to Barea’s latest injury, you probably will admit that the suspected excuse makes sense.
After everything that happened this season, so the theory goes, the Mavericks were just happy to have made the NBA playoffs.
Their Champagne moment came last week when they beat Utah and secured a playoff berth for the 15th time in 16 seasons.
They celebrated, but they also sighed with relief. The Mavericks had won only 10 of 22 games since the beginning of March, prospering because they won six in a row against a timely stretch of so-so or worse teams.
And the uphill battle tired them mightily, so the theory goes, as graphically evidenced by Saturday night’s unsightly 108-70 defeat.
Makes sense to me.
But the Mavericks aren’t giving that excuse any legs as they prepare for Monday night’s Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“There really wasn’t one area where we had any real traction,” coach Rick Carlisle said of the 38-point flogging.
“That said, I don’t think we’re too far off in some areas. We’ve just got to adjust and get better.”
Just got to “adjust and get better?”
I had to rewind my tape to make sure that Carlisle had channeled his inner Tony Romo and really said that.
There aren’t three coaches in the league who are better than Carlisle, so I’ll excuse his brief episode of coach-speak. He coached the game Saturday. He saw the tape.
He also knows that J.J. Barea, Chandler Parsons and maybe Deron Williams are all injured and out.
On paper alone, this would have been a lopsided playoff matchup even if the Mavericks were at full strength.
Who guards Kevin Durant? Who rebounds, especially on the defensive boards? What do you do against Russell Westbrook?
“Going into Game 2, we’ll make some adjustments,” Carlisle said. “Our disposition is going to have to be stronger — that’s going to have to be one of the big adjustments. They understand that we’re going against a great team.”
A great and mostly healthy Oklahoma City team. The last time that a Thunder player missed time because of injury was more than three weeks ago, when backup Kyle Singler sat out three games.
During the regular season, Oklahoma City fielded the same starting lineup — Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson — 60 times. Dion Waiters filled in for Roberson in early February for 10 games, which means that the Thunder was able to use more or less the same starting lineup for 70 of their 82 games.
Carlisle, on the other hand, was able to field his planned No. 1 lineup — Parsons, Williams, Wes Matthews, Zaza Pachulia and Dirk Nowitzki — for only 36 of 82 games.
When Nowitzki was asked at Sunday’s practice how the Mavericks hoped to bounce back from a 38-point playoff defeat, he didn’t get technical.
“Just flush it,” he said. “Most of us have been in the league for a while. We’ve got an experienced team. We’ve been in the playoffs for a long time.
“There are tough losses. You’ve just got to regroup the next day, look at some film and see where things went south, and then you’ve got to let it all hang out the next day.
“Have a short memory — that’s how this thing works.”
Or, as the theory goes, a 42-40 team could just be thankful that it scratched and clawed its way into the playoffs for the 15th time in 16 seasons.
Forget the adjustments. Just minimize the public flogging.
Makes sense to me. And probably to the Mavericks, too, all disposition alterations aside.