How their best compare to the Warriors

If you’re looking for hope, you’ve come to the wrong place. Hope implies at least a modicum of optimism.

Trailing 0-3 at Golden State, the Mavericks’ chances of winning the Western Conference Finals range from negligible to nil.

Now, Game 4 on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center is a whole different matter. On its own, a solitary home win is more than doable for Dallas. Important? It depends on your point of view.

The Mavericks owe it to themselves, if not their fans, for the first time in this series to play like the team that has beaten No. 1 seed Phoenix in four of the last five games, winning the games. 6 and 7 by 60 points combined.

As he gave his team time off on Monday, other than light shooting and injury rehabilitation, Dallas coach Jason Kidd was asked if he yearned for a Game 5 return to his native Bay Area. .

“The only way to get back into the bay is to win,” he said. “So we are not worried about the theft. We have to protect the house.

Apologies to Tony Bennett for the reference, but the Mavericks left their jockstraps and an undetermined part of their playoff dignity in San Francisco.

The two litter the Chase Center field like clothes on a teenager’s bedroom floor, fallen in the third and fourth quarters of Dallas’ Game 2 slump to 19 points.

Now the question is whether the Mavericks have enough collective moxie to win Game 4 and earn their way to San Francisco to, at least, atone for Game 2, if not in the win, then in the defensive effort and the win. offensive execution.

The alternative is to get swept up and hope Golden State is gracious enough that FedEx said jockstraps, plus a thank you note for the extra days off before the NBA Finals and maybe some Ghirardelli and Alcatraz chocolate t-shirts.

Tuesday night’s game is Dallas’ 99th of the season. Whether the Mavericks can avoid their first four-game losing streak of the season and make it to Game 100 depends on how much energy and pride remains in their reservoir and whether they live up to their accountability mantra – to themselves and to each other.

“It’s definitely going to be tested,” guard Jalen Brunson said Monday. “Honestly, we’ve been through wins, losses, ups and downs together… but no matter what, we’ll be together.

“I think that’s the best thing about this team. We were able to hold on. We’re just going to have to extend it a bit more.

Obviously, my “Mavs in six” pre-series prediction was wrong. I mistakenly believed the Mavericks would continue their Phoenix Series momentum.

I thought the team would heed GM Nico Harrison’s words after Game 7 in Phoenix when he said, “Now’s the time to be greedy; now is not the time to be complacent.

An emotional Luka Doncic said after the Game 7 win “You can’t get that smile off my face right now” and upon arriving in San Francisco said “I’m living my best life right now.” But many of us thought that Doncic and the Mavericks, having seized the opportunity in Phoenix, would also benefit.

That’s not to downplay Golden State’s championship pedigree and series grabbing. But it was also a Warriors team that was pushed to six games by Memphis, the last three without Ja Morant, including a 39-point Game 5 loss in which the Warriors were trailing 55.

Golden State is very good, definitely better than Dallas, but not 4-0 or even 4-1 better, although that’s irrelevant now. Barring a major injury in the series, the Mavericks will not channel the 2004 Red Sox and become the first NBA team in 147 attempts to rally 0-3 and win.

Kidd has repeatedly called this season a journey. He did it again on Monday, calling that deficit another lesson learned along the way.

I asked Kidd if the Mavericks had shown up on that biggest stage, the NBA’s last four, with TNT’s iconic studio set broadcasting from PNC Plaza and the basketball world watching. Kidd politely objected to what I said was a bigger scene.

“It’s just basketball,” he said. “The field is not expanding. Unfortunately, there are more of you, but that’s the only difference. The rim does not rise any higher.

“It’s just a matter of experience, understanding how to handle different things at this time of year. And unfortunately, we don’t have anyone on this list who played until May 23 or 24, and that’s a big time for us.

Unless the Mavericks win on Tuesday, and don’t just play well, the enduring images of this series will be Andrew Wiggins’ poster dunk on Doncic and Barkley straddling PNC Plaza.

“When I saw the rim, that’s all I saw,” Wiggins said of the dunk. That’s right. As if no Maverick was even there. So did the Mavericks’ lack of resilience over three games, at least the kind they showed as they rallied to beat Utah and Phoenix.

“It’s something we’re definitely going to grow from,” Brunson said. “But it really hurts right now. We just have to keep fighting. That’s all we can really do.

If the Mavericks we saw against Phoenix don’t show up Tuesday night, the shame won’t be that Dallas was swept or their season ended one game under 100.

It will be that the Mavericks missed the most important opportunity of all on this seven-month journey: The chance to compete, at their best, against the three-time NBA champions who are likely on the cusp of one. other.


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Clyde P. Johnson