Mavs have plenty to lose

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:32 PM ET

With their post-season suddenly and unexpectedly on the brink of elimination, big questions are being asked in Big D.

To say the Dallas Mavericks are in big trouble would be to state the obvious, a team that is skilled enough to compete against any opponent but whose will has again come under question.

This is a team that engineered a mid-season blockbuster trade that helped fuel 13-game win streak.

This is a team that ended the regular season on a five-game win streak and opened its opening-round playoff matchup against San Antonio with a win and a quick 1-0 series edge.

The Mavs promptly lost the next three games and their composure, exposing a soft underbelly that dates back four years ago when Dallas should have beaten Miami in the NBA final.

Don Nelson couldn’t summon the proper mental toughness necessary in the playoffs.

Avery Johnson brought the Mavs to the cusp of a championship, but the final hurdle could not be cleared because the requisite killer instinct could not be found.

Rick Carlisle has had Caron Butler and Shawn Marion on the bench for extended stretches as Game 5 gets set to be played Tuesday night.

The Mavs have whined about the officials, which is the norm when teams are not performing to expectations.

Much, afterall, was expected of these Mavs, whose owner, Mark Cuban, spares no expense when it comes to winning.

No team other than the reigning champion Lakers spent more on player salaries than the Mavs.

By definition, no team has more to lose at this moment in time than the Mavs.

The Lakers are tied in their series with the young and athletic Oklahoma City Thunder, but experience and Kobe Bryant should prevail in a matchup that is guaranteed to go six games, maybe the distance.

There are no guarantees with the Mavs because their opponent is playoff tested and mentally tough.

San Antonio survived an offensively poor performance by Tim Duncan, who matched his career-playoff low of four points in Game 4, in part due to the Spurs’ collective will and attention to detail.

History hasn’t been kind to teams trailing 3-1, a list of an elite eight among the 189 teams who have faced the depths of this deficit and adversity.

“I don’t see no fat lady,” Marion began in the aftermath of Sunday’s meltdown. “So, we’re good.”

Marion was on the last team to come back from a 3-1 hole when he played in Phoenix four years ago, eventually beating a flawed Lakers team.

Perhaps Marion will help Dallas rewrite history, but something has gone missing with the Mavs, who may soon be history.

Cuban is so competitive and is so committed to winning that any move regarding a player or a coach can’t be ruled out, assuming Dallas is one and done.

“We’ve got to stop the bleeding,” Dirk Nowitzki said.

It begins by maintaining composure, creating more of an uptempo game and matching San Antonio’s mental toughness.

All the pieces were in place for Dallas to go on a long and eventful post-season run.

They had experience, size, scoring, defence, versatility and depth.

Their heart and character are now under siege and how they respond will help forge the path Cuban takes his team into the future.

Mega Bucks and Busts

Whether it’s as early as tonight’s Game 5 in Boston or sometime in the near future, Jermaine O’Neal’s time with the Heat is about to expire. O’Neal turned the clock back last spring when he helped the Heat extend the Hawks to seven games in the opening round, but he’s done nothing in four games against the Celtics. O’Neal wrapped up the final year of a deal that paid him $22.9 million US this past season, third highest in the NBA. If he’s fortunate, O’Neal may get the league’s mid-level exception of roughly $6 million next season. He’s not the only player looking at a considerable pay decrease.

Tracy McGrady: T-Mac was the highest-paid hoopster, earning $23.2 million; he wore out his welcome in Houston and shot his mouth off more than he took shots from the field during his brief tenure in New York; McGrady, as always, talked a good game, but he didn’t endear himself to coach Mike D’Antoni; someone will take a flyer on the one-time high flyer; he may return to Orlando for the $1.3-million veteran’s minimum and be reunited with Vince Carter.

Shaquille O’Neal: The NBA’s five-member $20-million club featured Shaq Daddy, who missed the last 23 games of the regular season with a thumb injury; he’s averaged 19.3 minutes in Cleveland’s opening-round series against the Bulls, posting averages of 8.0 points and 5.8 rebounds; his impact can’t be measured unless Cleveland gets matched up against Dwight Howard and the Magic; Shaq may call it quits if Cavs win a title; his ego won’t accept the considerable salary haircut that awaits.


Videos

Photos