DALLAS _ Rick Carlisle doesn’t mind if his players make comments that may turn up as bulletin board material for the Miami Heat.
“Listen, none of that stuff is meaningful,’’ Carlisle, the Dallas Mavericks’ coach, said after this morning’s shootaround. “Once the ball gets thrown up between the lines all the stuff is manufactured stuff form the media – a lot of it is.
“Look, I’ve got some crazy guys and I love them. You want to have that kind of crazy guys on your team this time of the year.’’
Earlier in the NBA Finals, guard Jason Terry questioned the conditioning of Heat forward LeBron James. And on Wednesday, guard DeShawn Stevenson said he thought James “checked out’’ of the fourth quarter of game 4.
The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, and Game 5 is tonight at 8 at American Airlines Center.
Games 6 will be Sunday in Miami, and a decisive Game 7 – if necessary – will also be in Miami on Tuesday.
With that backdrop, from the Mavs’ perspective, Carlisle knows his team can ill-afford to head to South Beach a game down in this series.
“This is our last game this year in this building,’’ Carlisle said. “Our fans have been phenomenal all three years I’ve been here, especially this year.
“This is an opportunity for us to really put it all out there because we’re not going to be back in here.’’
No team has won back-to-back games yet in this series. And the pressure is mounting for both teams to lay it all out on the line tonight and play Game 5 as if this is Game 7.
“We love pressure,’’ Carlisle said. “The more the pressure is on, the better our team has functioned all year long.
“So, bring it on.’’
Throughout these playoffs, the Mavs have shown the ability to strike fast and hard even when it appeared as though they were out of games. Dallas has rallied from being down by double-digits in each of the four rounds of the playoffs.
The Mavs also rallied from nine points in Game 4 on Tuesday by using a 21-9 spurt to end the game and walk out with an 86-83 victory.
“I think we’ve been a good fourth quarter team all season long. We’ve had some comebacks where we won a lot of games where down the stretch we had to grind it out, so we feel like we have a bunch of veterans that know how to win and know how to get a crucial stop and know how to execute to get a good shot or get a basket.
“So this year we’re a good executing team.’’
That execution will be put to the test again tonight against a Heat team known for its aggressive and tough-minded defense.
“All games so far have been big and none of them are bigger than tonight,’’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “This is what the Finals are about – every game is big.
“We’d love to go (to Miami up) 3-2. You don’t want to give them two chances to close it out at home, so (tonight) is our Game 7 here and the last home game for this year in this building, so it should be a great atmosphere and hopefully we can pull it out.’’
Center Tyson Chandler acknowledged that tonight’s game will come down to which team simply wants it more.
“I think the pressure is on both teams because we know this is an important game,’’ Chandler said. “Whoever gets this game is going to be able to win one out of the next two for a ring, so this game is important for both teams.
“Every game is a must-win. If you asked me that yesterday I’d tell you yeah, the day before I’d tell you yeah. Game 1 I’d tell you must-win, and I’m going to say the same thing tonight – it’s a must-win.’’
So important is tonight’s game that pain has taken a backseat to the task at hand. Forward Shawn Marion injured his calf in Game 4, but declares himself physically fit for tonight’s game.
“What is pain? What is it?,’’ Marion asked. “Man, we're in the NBA Finals.
“There ain't no pain. I'm suiting up. That's all that matters.’’
Guard Jason Terry said the outcome of tonight’s game will hinge on which team comes out with sheer aggression, and which team can weather the overwhelming heat that will be applied at both ends of the court.
“Come out with aggression on both ends of the floor, attacking at every possible moment, and seizing the moment and taking control of the series,’’ Terry said. “It’s a big game for us.
“The last game here at home n front of our fans and we want to go out with a bang.’’
James scored a career playoff-low eight points in Game 4 and has been criticized nationally over the past 48 hours. Asked if the Mavs are in James’ head, Terry said: “I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter to us.
“Our job is to be up in his body, in his head, in his mind, everywhere. We’re supposed to be all over this court tonight and I know we will.’’
The Mavs feel if they’re able to successfully scramble on defense, plus attack the boards and get their transition game in gear, they will have the inside track on winning their final game of the season in the AAC.
“Right from the jump we’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to be assertive and really looking to attack this team. No doubt in my mind that every man that steps on this court tonight in a Maverick uniform will be aggressive.
“So however we’ve got to win it, we’re prepared to do so.’’
-- Dwain Price
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