Do-or-die Game 5 in Dallas
No. 7 San Antonio Spurs (3-1) at No. 2 Dallas Mavericks (1-3)
Losers of Games 2, 3 and 4, the Mavs enter an all-important fifth matchup of their first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs knowing that the season could come down to Tuesday night's contest. Though the Mavs are well aware that they must win three straight to claim the series, the squad is taking a game-by-game approach. That starts with getting a win in Game 5 to extend the season.
"Is it hard to win three games in a row during the playoffs? Yes, it's hard. But if it wasn't, everyone would be playing in the NBA," center Brendan Haywood said. "The way I look at this series is one game at a time. We have a game on Tuesday, and I don't look any further than that. If we don't take care of the game on Tuesday, there won't be another game later in the week. We have to win one game and go from there."
"It starts with winning Game 5," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle agreed. "That's got to be the starting point. We've got to play and win the game."
And it's a game the Mavericks will be calling on their veteran leadership to win. Both Carlisle and forward Shawn Marion have been on teams that overcame 3-1 holes. Carlisle coached a Detroit Pistons squad that came back from the 3-1 disadvantage to knock off the Orlando Magic in 2003. Marion's Phoenix team did the same, only it was in 2006 when the Suns handed the Los Angeles Lakers a series defeat. Both of which came in the first round, giving the Mavericks two blueprints for success.
Marion addressed the team after Monday's practice, telling his teammates to stay positive and to remain confident.
"(Marion) just said that they were the better team (in 2006) and they believed," forward Dirk Nowitzki said of the pep talk.
Now, the Mavericks believe that they will have an opportunity to shock the basketball world and show that they are also the better team.
Although the odds are completely stacked up against the Mavericks now, Carlisle doesn't see this as an opportunity to shake things up. Instead, the head coach believes that if his team fully operates the game plan to the best of its abilities, then they will walk away with a victory. Hopefully leading to three straight wins.
"We've got to play our game better," the coach said. "In the middle of a playoff series, you're not going to reinvent who you are."
For Carlisle, that means his team returns to turning defensive stops into instant offense with transition scores. When the Mavericks have been at their best, they have been a run-and-gun team utilizing fast-break scores. But when the Mavs have struggled, the Spurs have been successful at forcing Dallas into turnovers in the half-court sets.
"We're a running team and we will still be looking to run," Carlisle said.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks will be looking for an answer to slowing down standout George Hill, a second-year guard who is coming off of a 29-point performance in Game 4. The Spurs' budding star picked up his scoring, nailing 11 of 16 shots and swishing in 5-of-6 from behind the 3-point arch, with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker collectively totaling 14 points while Manu Ginobili came on late for his 17 points.
"I thought if you told me before the game that we would hold the 'Big Three' (Duncan, Ginobili and Parker) to the numbers they had in the game, I would have said we win the game...You have to give Hill credit, he was unconscious from the 3-point line," Nowitzki said.
But the Mavericks will look to take away Hill's perimeter opportunities Tuesday night. With their backs against the wall, the Mavs will not only try to force the ball out of Hill's hands, but they'll also try to extend the series to at least a Game 6 back in San Antonio on Thursday night.
"If we get one win, then we put the pressure on them to win it in six," Nowitzki said.
"We're working for an opportunity to go back out on the road," Carlisle added.
After two games away from Big D, the series returns to the American Airlines Center for Game 5, which will air nationally on NBA TV and locally on KTXA and KTXA HD at 8:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday night. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
The Mavs-Spurs first round series schedule is as follows:
Game 5 – Tue April 27 San Antonio at Dallas 8:30 PM TXA21/ NBA TV
Game 6 * Thu April 29 Dallas at San Antonio TBD TXA21/ TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 1 San Antonio at Dallas TBD TXA21/ TNT
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