(Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed reports from the Dallas Mavericks' Tuesday practice as the defending champions prepare for their regular-season finale on Thursday before entering the playoffs.
Practice Report (04/24/12)
DALLAS — Although significant practice time has been a rare sight for all 30 NBA teams during this 66-game shortened season, that’s just what the Dallas Mavericks have this week heading into their regular-season finale in Atlanta on Thursday before the first round of the playoffs.
After splitting a back-to-back at home against Golden State and on the road in Chicago, the defending champions took Sunday off before a light workout the following day. Tuesday, however, the Mavericks (36-29) returned to the practice court with their eyes on both finishing the condensed campaign in style and building momentum heading into the playoffs.
“The off days are really more work days, because just preparing for the next practice and the possibilities that are coming up. So, there’s no days off,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle explained.
“I don’t believe there’s one playoff matchup that’s set yet, and that’s very unusual, you know, with two or three days left to go in the season,” he added. “So, we’re excited, and there’s gonna be 15 other teams excited about the possibility as well. And we want to be healthy, we want to make sure we’re thinking the right way, we want to make sure we have an edge and to go into this thing — and when I say ‘this thing’ I mean the game Thursday and games beyond — with a mental edge and a real understanding for exactly how we’ve got to play to be successful.”
With time winding down on the regular season, Tuesday served as a day for the team to turn its attention towards the postseason, despite not knowing who the first-round opponent will be when the Mavs begin play on the road.
Sitting one-half game behind Denver for the sixth spot in the Western Conference standings, the Mavs could end up leapfrogging the Nuggets should the two finish with identical records due to a 3-1 season series in Dallas’ favor. Meanwhile, the Mavericks will try to position themselves for their best first-round matchup, with Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Clippers all possible options.
Still, both Carlisle and 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki say the team is already relishing in the underdog role as was the case last season, when an unheralded Dallas squad scratched and clawed its way to the first title in franchise history.
“Right now, we’re gonna be sixth or seventh. A sixth or seventh seed is generally gonna be viewed as an underdog-type team and that’s OK. But either way, we’ve got to approach it the same way. We can’t look for external motivations to get fired up to defend a championship,” the coach explained. “If you have to do that, you shouldn’t be in this; you should be doing something else. Our guys understand that and, look, we like pressure. Pressure has done a great thing for our team over the four years (that Carlisle has been coach of the Mavs). We embrace it and we look forward to it.”
“It’s kind of hard to read teams from this season,” Nowitzki added. “Obviously, the Spurs have looked phenomenal from the All-Star break. I think they’ve only lost five or six games. But other than that, you know, teams are losing to teams they shouldn’t be losing to just ’cause there’s so many games, so much traveling going on. So, I still think the West is wide open. I think there’s a lot of tough teams. Like I said, the Spurs and OKC will be tough, and the Lakers are going to be tough with the Big Three. The Clippers are playing well at the right time. Nobody wants to really see Memphis; they’re a big, physical team. So, I think the West is loaded and it will be fun to watch as a fan as well.”
Note: The Mavericks conclude the regular season on Thursday night in Atlanta against the Hawks. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.
Dates and times for the first two home playoff games have not been announced but will be posted on mavs.com by April 27th.