Saturday, May 09, 2009

Game 3: Nuggets 106, Mavs 105 (3-0)

My Full Game 3 Notes Column

That's an ender.

As valiant an effort as it was, the 2008-09 Dallas Mavericks season basically came to a close on Saturday night as the Mavs were trying to take a foul they had to give, but the officials allowed the play to continue and Carmelo made them play by sticking a 3 in the face of Dallas and bringing this series to the brink.

There are a million ways to look at this game, but I suppose the easiest way is to say that when you are up 4 points at 105-101 with :31 to play, you have go to close that deal. The Mavs then went 0-2 on defensive attempts and 0-2 on offensive attempts and that is why you lost. Why the officials did not recognize Antoine Wright's clear foul on Carmelo is certainly worth discussing, but you cannot take a collective 0-4 on possessions in the final 30 seconds and then do anything but take your medicine. The call was blown, but nonetheless, you also have to help yourself.

For the Mavs, that medicine will include a summer that will begin this week.

What a shame. The arena was nuts and Dirk Nowitzki delivered with 33 points and 16 rebounds. But, he would tell you his 0-4 in the final 3 minutes are what matters most, and he would be correct.

And, while fighting off a case of the gut-aches, let's ponder some various thoughts and observations from the Game 3 to remember in Dallas:

* What is a great way to respond to Dirk getting 33? How about Chauncey Billups gets you 32 and Carmelo Anthony gets you 31? We worried about the fact that neither of those two had really taken over the games in Denver like we know they are capable. Well, they took turns on Saturday, and that obviously was a pretty good shot in the mid-section of Dallas. They were both awesome.

* Game 3 was the game where Rick Carlisle pretty much figured out that Erick Dampier could not help him. He played 5 minutes in the 2nd half, and the most relevant thing he did was get poster-ized by Dahntay Jones on a play that would make Shawn Bradley proud. A true facial was delivered there.

* You have to feel badly for the Mavericks because they accomplished many of their smaller missions. They took the ball hard to the rim on a pretty regular basis. They responded with grit and toughness. They did not get abused by Nene and Birdman. But, in the end, they lost. NBA Life isn't fair, boys.

* Since my "easy points" counter was so shocking in Game 2 (67-39, Nuggets), it should be noted that those numbers were far more manageable in Game 3. Getting 40 points at the free throw line was huge for the Mavs, as every time Brandon Bass was close to the rim, the Nuggets decided to give him a bruise. The margin was 70-62 in favor of Denver if you add up all of the dunks, lay-ups, tip-ins, and free throws or what I have come to define as "easy points". 70-62 is manageable, and if the series wasn't 3-0, you might actually look at that statistic and wonder if the Mavs have changed their mentality a bit (or grown bigger muscles in front of the home fans) and perhaps are up for a street fight. But, at 3-0, we can only surmise that the lesson was learned too late.

* Chauncey versus Kidd was fascinating tonight. I thought both played their best games of the series, and both went after eachother with great abandon. Near the end of the 3rd Quarter, Kidd was determined to take whoever guarded him down into the paint. He scored the final 6 points of the quarter for the Mavs, capped off with his buzzer-beater at the end. But, Chauncey was there the whole game, hitting shots that make you understand how he has won an NBA Finals MVP before. He has been money in the playoffs for years, and his latest performance reminded you of his original breakout game In this same arena 7 years ago in the first playoff game he ever started.

* I can't stand Denver. I know it is being a sore loser, but I am willing to argue that there are years when you lose that you don't grow a major level of disdain for your conqueror. For instance, I can recall an honest and healthy respect for the Spurs in 2003 or the Suns in 2005. But, this year is different. I will fully back the Lakers against Denver and eagerly root for their demise. Their cockiness is amazing for a team that has never done a thing prior to about a week ago. I look forward to their eventual humbling. There. How is that for bitter?

* All things considered, I thought Josh Howard can hold his chin up for his day's work. He played hard and did what he could given his injury. I have no idea what caused him to lose his mind at the end of the game when Darrell Armstrong was trying to keep him from killing someone, but I sort of expected Josh in street clothes today. I was pleased that he made a go of it, and did what he could.

* Once again, we seem to see a fundamental issue with the Dallas Mavericks as a whole. In my opinion, because they so seldom attempt to play lock-down defense in the first 7 months of the season, when they do they are not able to defend without fouling. I know that they talk a good game about defense during the year, but when they get to the playoffs and really have to buckle down - there is Erick Dampier, Josh Howard, and Antoine Wright all in foul trouble. As a team, they were actually on the right end of the foul totals, but when it is time to defend Nene or Carmelo in this series, they don't seem to be able to do it very often without a whistle. Dampier has spent the whole series in foul trouble. This should encourage them to consider more depth at the 5 (or, of course a new center altoghther). Because Ryan Hollins is foul trouble off the bench, too.

* Humble Billy was just a hair below bonkers tonight. My ears are still ringing.

* I am as guilty as anybody for trying to rationalize the 4-0 regular season sweep of the Nuggets , but I believe at 0-7, I am ready to admit it. They are better. Much better. And futhermore, I would say they are better because of massive mismatch issues they present. Guess what, New Orleans had massive matchup advantages, too. And, Golden State? In an odd way, they did, too. So, if you need Michael Finley to hit a miracle to insure that you get a good playoff dance partner; otherwise you face massive matchup issues in a series - three years in a row - you might take that as a hint that while you are a good team, you don't have a team worthy of playoff long hauls. The teams that are worthy are not foiled by opponents who give them looks "they have no answer for". The structure of this team is flawed, and until it changes...well, you know. In fact, Dave in Tulsa says it well: Donnie and Cuban have shown remarkable stubborness in sticking to the old game plan even in the face of insurmountable evidence that the plan has failed. That's why Dallas is on the verge of yet another ignomious playoff exit, with an aging, unathletic team that has no first round picks for a while. But Cuban will no doubt tell us it's the referees' fault. Dave, they do have a first rounder this year, by the way. Hello, Ty Lawson!

* I thought the Birdman was going to try to assault Bennett Salvatore in the 3rd Quarter. I am sure Dallas fans would have come to the rescue, right?

* One thing that made me smile on Saturday was seeing a person I never get enough of at the game. He is The amazing Jimmy Goldstein . I have been following his appearances for years since running into him in Arco Arena back in 2002 and wondering why Tom Petty is at the Mavs-Kings game. Since then, I have seen him on tv and in person at dozens and dozens of playoff games in his trademark snake skin and wonder what makes him tick. Basically, he attends games every night during the playoffs all over the league and never seems to run out of steam or money. He claims to not have a favorite team but rather he just enjoys the sport. So, he finds his way to the front row of games in every city and into press conferences, too. And everyone in the NBA loves him and gives him full access. Crazy.

* This is where I am supposed to point out that no team in the history of the National Basketball Association has ever come back to win a series when falling behind 3 games to 0. So, the odds are not really good that it starts here. On the other hand, you can likely get a prop bet in Vegas that could make you pretty rich if it hits. Just don't quit that day job, yet.

* The NBA has admitted it made a mistake on the foul that wasn't called when Antoine Wright slashed Carmelo Anthony on purpose. So, I am not sure what that means, but you got your apology, Mavs. Perhaps the coffee will be cheaper in the morning?

* Fight or Fold? As Wayne in Cedar Hill writes: So now do the Mavs come out in Game 4 the same way with the same energy and try to fight back and make it a series again. After all, the Mavs know first hand that it can be done, courtesy of the Blazers in 2003. Or do the Mavs simply fold up shop and go away quietly, and what will that indicate about the heart and passion of this team? Which of these two scenarios is preferred by the fans and media, fight to the end, or just end the misery and get it over with, since we know they're merely pretenders and not contenders this year anyway? Most importantly, what happens in the offseason? I say we fight. I don't want those knuckleheads celebrating on the Dallas court. And don't you think the guys want to go to Denver again?

This one is another in the long list of numbing, painful playoff losses. Will the basketball gods ever forgive the Laura Miller curse?

I am starting to wonder.

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