There are certainly many great things about the NBA Playoffs. It is such a glorious roller coaster ride of elation, depression, and everything in between. But, there is no doubt that one of the dynamics that you sometimes forget about until the spring reminds you is that soul searching and feelings of despair the morning after a seemingly devastating loss.
There is no way to recover.
This thing is over.
This team is about to be destroyed.
This coach needs to be fired.
And sometimes, it is spot on (especially in elimination games). The trouble - unless it is the death game - is, you never know when the loss is as bad as it seems or just a momentary bump in the road that will be made all better the next time your team takes the court.
This morning, the Mavs' fandom is in total freak-out mode. This is bad. These last two games have doubt creeping in all over the place. The ship feels like it is sinking. Losing one game is to be expected. Losing 2 in a row - especially one in which you feel like you fought your tails off - is very disheartening.
The Mavs lost last night to fall behind 2 games to 1 in this best of seven series against the franchise that they are obsessed with. San Antonio has the jewelry, and it always seems like they have one more play when the chips are down.
So, is it the beginning of the end already? Or, is this one of those character-building, soul-searching, lesson-learning bumps in the road that every playoff has?
I don't know. Game 4 feels like a must win. Game 3 feels like a game where the Spurs confidence expands and the Mavericks begin to blame each-other.
Personally, I thought that Rick Carlisle was easily out-coached. I am normally indifferent about his job performance as I do think it is a player's league and the coaches do not affect the outcome of the game nearly as much. But, wow. Last night, I might check and make sure that Rick wasn't trying to throw that game.
Yes, small ball worked like a charm in the 3rd Quarter (although you could argue that Dirk went off - and most of the rest of the players on the floor had a good view), but to never deviate from that path - if only to allow them to catch their breath is junior league.
Take JJ Barea. Barea is great in doses some nights. And unless I am high, those doses are seldom 32 consecutive minutes. But, last night, he checked in with 8 minutes to play in the 2nd Quarter...and then never left the game. You know, JJ played very well. I liked a huge part of his game and they are not in a position to win without his contribution, but 32 minutes in a row for a guy who seldom plays 8 consecutive minutes? Talk about running a guy right into the ground. This is like having your closer throw 75 pitches. Use him how he is normally used, and get good results. Take a high energy guy and play him 32 straight minutes and you get a wild drive in the lane in the final moments.
Same thing with Dampier. And Terry. Same thing with the whole stinking line-up.
So, what did you have in the 4th Quarter? The small line-up looking tired, unable to stop the relentless dribble penetration of the Spurs that happened over and over and the inability to get good looks at the basket on many possessions. Instead, taking contested 21 foot launches as the shot clock is expiring when the game was on the line.
Where was Caron Butler? Where was Shawn Marion? Heck, where was DeShawn Stevenson? I am not saying any of them are the answer. I am saying that if Barea and Terry are your best options on Friday, get the dudes a 4 minute break at some point so they still have something in their legs at the most important point of the game.
And yes, I believe that Butler can help you get to the rim when your team desperately needs to stop trading a Spurs lay-up for a contested 22 footer with the shot clock expiring.
So, yes, I believe coaching was a big reason the Mavs disintegrated in the most important moments of Game 3.
And, no, I am not going to take part in the "Danny Crawford is out to get us" narrative that is poisoning the city.
Anyway, these are the days that test your resolve. And make no mistake; the Mavs are already up against that wall.
Other notes and observations from Game 3:
* Mavs entered the 4th Quarter up 4. Let's look at the results of each team's next seven possessions: Mavs: Marion missed jumper, Terry missed jumper, Barea offensive foul, Terry made 3-pt, Barea missed 3, Dirk offensive foul, Terry missed 3, Terry turnover. Now, the Spurs: Manu layup, Hill layup, Manu layup + foul, Manu missed jumper, Bonner missed 3, Manu layup + foul, Hill fouled on lay-up 2 free throws. Which team is playing playoff basketball? Which team is determined to get to the rim and force contact? And which team needs to stop kidding itself about small ball? Oh, and by the way, it went from Mavs up, 70-66 to Spurs up 78-73.
* Just to make sure you got my point, let's continue to look at the Mavs 4th Quarter possessions. I will pick it up where I left off: Dirk makes jumper, Dirk misses jumper, Terry misses 3, Kidd misses 3, Barea misses jumper, Terry misses jumper, Terry misses jumper, Kidd 2 free throws, Dirk 2 free throws, Dirk makes jumper, Kidd misses 3 pt... All along, no Butler, no Haywood, no taking it into the paint with any conviction or energy. And another launch party loses a tough playoff game where one team is taking 2 footers and the other team is taking 21 footers.
* Now, to this Danny Crawford thing. Yes, the Mavs are something like 1-17 now in playoff games in which he works. But, if this organization doesn't get over this persecution complex, they have no chance of ever taking the next step. Everyone on that team has Danny Crawford in their kitchen. They all enter the game completely sure that he is about to screw them. And you know what? That mental distraction changes their mentality. It changes their approach. It makes them look like babies. And it makes the Spurs an after-thought. Stop whining and play through it. I don't like him either. He seems to not like the Mavs, but you know something? Mark Cuban made this bed by publicly taking on the refs at every opportunity. Now, that bed must be slept in. And the Mavs will never totally make the leap to that championship level until the refs of the game don't matter. It just strengthens their resolve. Rise above.
* The real shame last night is that the Mavs wasted a singular Dirk performance. He was a warrior in full "Terminator" mode. I loved his game and it seemed like he was determined to play physically and punish the Spurs in the paint. He was just hung out to dry in my estimation.
* Jason Kidd has resembled a 37-year old point guard with high miles in the last 2 games. I trust that will change quickly.
Game 4. Go get it. Or this thing may really be in shambles.