Though in the course of the regular season, any particular NBA game can't be construed to mean all that much, one can't help but be concerned about the mental state of the Dallas Mavericks after last night's contest in San Antonio.
With a Spurs team that generally doesn't put much stock into any particular regular season game hosting the Mavs without the services of one Tim Duncan available, last night had to be a game the boys from Dallas expected to win. Up seven at the half, it certainly appeared that they had the matter under control. But with one fell swoop, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker took over, leading the Spurs to a blowout 31-17 third quarter and hanging on in the fourth for a 97-95 win
Again, to a man, no regular season NBA game means that much. There generally aren't the type of statement games seen on a regular basis in the NFL. But last night undeniably had to hurt for the Mavs. The Spurs now hold virtually every psychological edge imaginable over this team. Despite all the Mavs' regular season success, the Spurs are the ones with the rings. The Spurs are the ones who have only let Dallas past them once, and the one time they did, it had no adverse effect on them in the long run, as they stormed right back for another NBA title the following year. The Spurs are the ones who remain relatively impervious to issues such as home-court advantage and are reputed to be more concerned with doing things the right way and keeping folks fresh and healthy than they are with dominating an exorbitant proportion of regular season contests. They are the ultimate forget-this-particular-battle-and-just-win-the-war team.
Last night, without their most valuable player (yes, we can still call him that despite his slow start), the Spurs took the battle from the Mavs despite all that philosophy. For a team that has endured playoff meltdowns against Miami and Golden State following great regular seasons each of the last two years as well as a team already losing the mind war with the Spurs on a regular basis, there has to be a mental break point coming soon for the fellows from Big D. Certainly, last night was no death blow, but it's just one more factor to think about regarding the collective psyche of this team.
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A few quick thoughts on tonight's games:
Denver at Dallas: Given the above commentary, it's hard to see the Mavs responding so quickly. Yes, this team is well-coached and has a lot of high-character and high-ability players on it, but it isn't hard to imagine the Nuggets jumping off to a quick start in an effort to make up for last night's loss to the Lakers that wasted a 51-point effort from AI.
Minnesota at Atlanta: The T-Wolves are putrid and haven't come within 15 in their last three games. With Zaza Pachulia still suffering from concussion like symptoms, we could be seeing another start for rebound machine (and my ROY pick) Al Horford. Watching the league's two most prominent young Big Als (Horford and Jefferson) go at it could be a lot of fun.
Miami at Portland: This Miami team has too much ability not to make a run somehwere. It will take a bit more ineptitude before I start believing that O'Neal really has had enough and that Flash will be facing effects of his surgery long-term. The Heat should take care of an inconsistent Blazers unit.