No. 8 seeds don’t beat No. 1 seeds. Not in the NBA, where success doesn’t depend on hot goalies or great starting pitching, but on the same things that worked during the regular season. Wild cards win the World Series and No. 8 seeds win the Stanley Cup, but they don’t win the NBA championship, and they don’t make their betters look like rank amateurs.
Only twice in the history of the league has an eight seed taken out a number one, and only one of them really counts. That was in 1994, when the Nuggets took out the Sonics, opening the door for the Rockets to win the title. The other time was in 1999, but that was a strike-shortened season and the team was the Knicks, who had battled injuries and were much better than their record said they were when they took out the Heat.
The ’94 Nuggets were 42-40 during the regular season, just like the Warriors. But the Sonics that year were 63-19, a darned fine record to be sure, but four games worse than the ’07 Mavs.
So the Mavericks, who were six games better than anyone else in the NBA and 25 games better than the Warriors, are looking to be the biggest flops in the NBA’s limited history of the species. That’s not exactly the kind of history they and their owner, Mark Cuban, set out to make when this season began.
But it’s what they’re headed for unless their celebrated coach, Avery Johnson, and their ballyhooed superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, start living up to their press clippings and become the heroes they’re said to be. This is the time of year when superstars do things that are celebrated forever. And Nowitzki hasn’t done that.
For all his enormous talent, he’s inexplicably soft. If he’s not getting nice open jump shots, he doesn’t have the stomach to go inside and fight for his points. He has the talent, but he has yet to show the will. It's clear from his comments after Game 4.
“I got to take what they give me and they don’t really give me a lot,” Nowitzki said, the Associated Press reported. “So I’ve got to make other stuff happen — help out on defense more; hit the glass harder, as hard as I can, get some extra possessions; if I have a shot, try to knock it down and if I don’t, move the ball and let someone else make a shot.”
Someone else? This, from the possible league MVP? No wonder Johnson was mad at his star.
“I’m tired of hearing about how they’ve taken him out of his game and any lack of confidence. You’re just not supposed to have that, all right,” Johnson said, the Associated Press reported.
If Nowitzki doesn’t find some deep reservoir of desire and his teammates with him, then there’s nothing left to be said except that neither knows how to win. Normally, I’d admit that’s harsh, but not in this case. This is the team that had a 2-0 lead on the Heat in last year’s NBA Finals, then didn’t win another game. But at least that was against a conference champion. This year, they’re 1-3 against the worst playoff team in the West.
And Johnson is the coach who replaced the Warriors’ Don Nelson, supposedly because he’s younger, more passionate and capable of inspiring the team to previously unvisited heights.
But last year, Johnson got outcoached by wily old Pat Riley. And this year, Nelson, who constructed these Mavericks before being replaced to Johnson two years ago, is coaching circles around the young genius-in-abeyance.
The Warriors do match up extraordinarily well against the Mavs; they beat Dallas three times during the regular season. But, let’s be honest. A team that wins 67 regular-season games should be able to overcome some match-up problems against the lowest seed in the playoffs. Matchups are a rationalization, not an excuse or a reason.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The only game Dallas won is Game 2, which the Warriors handed to the Mavs.
In the other three games, the Mavs have been competitive only once, in Game 4.
After that loss, Johnson told reporters, "I saw fire in our guys' eyes tonight. We came to play. We just didn't have a good finish to the game.
That's something we were concerned about all year. We have to have better finishes to quarters, practices, everything."
Seems like a heckuva time to notice such a glaring deficiency in the team’s abilities. It also makes you wonder what he was working on in practice all year. It sure wasn’t how to win tough games.
PBT: San Antonio found what worked and it’s on the Grizzlies to raise their level enough in Game 2 in San Antonio on Tuesday to get a split in the series.
PBT: The Pacers were too tough for the Knicks, but Miami is a different animal. The clubs face off in the East finals, starting Wednesday night.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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