Western Conference Playoffs First Round - Game 5
(2) Dallas 103, (7) San Antonio 81 - Spurs lead series, 3-2
The Dallas Mavericks played brilliant, fearless, aggressive and passionate basketball for 48 minutes. That's all well and good, but now the trick is for the creation of owner Mark Cuban to deliver the goods in enemy territory.
Sure, it was fine and dandy that Dallas maxed out in a 22-point trouncing of the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center. Had the Mavs not won, their season would have been over. Yet, no one should get too excited in Big D about this romp; it was merely the product of home-court advantage and utter desperation. Dallas had both of those factors riding in its favor, while coach Gregg Popovich's roster owned neither edge in Game 5 of this series.
Whenever a lower-seeded team gets a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series, a Game 5 win by the higher-seeded team rates as a non-story. The second-seeded Mavericks would have been laughed off the stage if they had failed to win this game against San Antonio. When Dallas - as the top-seeded team in the West - lost to Golden State in the first round of the playoffs back in 2007, the Mavs also won Game 5 at home. One would think - and hope - that a highly-talented team could avoid a 4-1 series loss on its home floor.
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In the case of "Mavs-Warriors 2007," the true focus of everyone's attention that year was not Game 5, but Game 6 at Golden State. Such a scenario allowed - as it always does - a best-of-seven showdown to reach one of its most defining moments: A title contender faces elimination on an underdog's home court; a regular-season beast stares at the possibility of early death against an overachieving upstart that is dealing with the pressure of needing to close down a series.
In 2007, the Mavericks - then coached by Avery Johnson - could not win Game 6 in Oakland against a revved-up Golden State group. The Warriors and coach Don Nelson thumped the Mavs once more and dealt Cuban's crew a blow from which it has never really recovered. One year after the Golden State flame-out, Dallas lost again in the first round in 2008, and Johnson was promptly fired as the team's coach. The man who replaced "The Little General" was none other than Rick Carlisle, who - in 2010 - guided the Mavs to the No. 2 seed in the West. Three years after Dallas failed to live up to its high seeding in the first round of the playoffs, this franchise could get knocked off a lofty perch once more. The scenario which swamped Avery Johnson in 2007 could overtake Rick Carlisle in 2010.
It's all about Game 6 on Thursday in San Antonio; if the Mavs can't win in the Alamo City, no one will ever talk about this Game 5 romp as a turning point.
If Dallas doesn't come strong and make good on Thursday inside the hostile AT&T Center, no one will talk about how Caron Butler carried the Mavs in Game 5 with 35 points and 11 rebounds.
If Dallas doesn't grab Game 6 and win its first road game of this Lone Star slugfest, no one will talk about how Brendan Haywood came alive with eight points, eight boards, and four blocks in an inspired performance the Mavs so desperately needed against Tim Duncan and the rest of the Spurs.
Sure, Dallas cruised in Game 5 at home when trailing 3-1 in the series. Now comes the hard - and defining - part: Game 6 inside the belly of the San Antonio beast.
Only with a win on Thursday does this Game 5 triumph become meaningful. On so many levels, the past is prelude as this all-Texas tussle unfolds.
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer
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