MIAMI _ Several members of the Dallas Mavericks woke up this morning in their downtown Miami hotel confident that by the time they lay their heads on their pillows tonight, they’ll be crowned the new NBA champions.
Then again, some of the Mavs tossed and turned as they prepared for the biggest game of their lives – Game 6 at 7 tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I didn’t sleep at all,’’ forward Shawn Marion said before this morning’s shootaround. “I think I got about four hours, maybe.
“”Ya’ll ain’t sleeping, either, so what ya’ll talking about. Ya’ll are excited as we are – just anticipating these games. These games have been great and that’s what it’s about.’’
The Mavs lead the best-of-seven NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, 3-2, and can run their record in closeout games this season to a perfect 4-0 with a win tonight. However, if a seventh game is needed, it will be back here on Tuesday night.
Dallas, though, would rather close it out tonight and hop on a plane and get back home and celebrate with a few hundred thousand of their closest friends.
“This is Game 7,’’ guard Jason Terry said. “This is our approach tonight, and we’re trying to get this thing done tonight.
“I’m feeling very positive, I’m feeling aggressive. That’s got to be our mindset going in – I know it will be.’’
Putting all issues aside – professionally or personal – for the next 48 minutes is what’s solely on the Mavs; minds. Being deprived of any meaningful sleep won’t matter either.
“When you get in the playoffs things do change,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “Your nervous system functions a little differently, your sleep patterns are a little different.
“But it’s all part of being put in a position to do things at a real high level.’’
The Heat has challenged the Mavs’ mettle to the point where Dallas had to rally from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to win Game 2, and rally from nine points down in the fourth quarter to capture Game 4.
“This has been a very intense two-week period,’’ Carlisle said. “I embrace the intensity of it and I know our guys do.’’
Since they know the Heat crowd will be jacked up tonight, the Mavs know the importance of getting off to a fast start.
“We’ve got to come out aggressive,’’ center Tyson Chandler said. “We know they’ll be juiced up in front of their home crowd -- we’ve got to try to hit them with the first punch.
“I think it’s important that we come out and play well. We want to come out and get a good start. I think that’s every game, though, but we definitely want to get out to a good start and control the momentum.’’
A quiet crowd means things will be working in the Mavs’ favor. So the Mavs want to keep the crowd out of it.
“You’ve got the crowd against you, you’ve got the electricity that they build off of,’’ Chandler said. “You’ve got to stay away from that.’’
The Mavs have never won an NBA title, and they’re prepared to seize the moment.
“We know what we have to do to be successful, the mindset we have to have going into tonight, so we’re prepared,’’ Terry said. “Today you just relax, do your normal routine.’’
“I’m very superstitious, so all those superstitious will be intact and ready to roll.
Properly lacing up his sneakers in a neat fashion before tipoff is one of the most superstitious things Terry does before games.
“It’s got to be in sync,’’ Terry said. “All strings got to be even.’’
Illnesses and injuries that players can play with must be put on the backburner, Terry said. For the Mavs, Game 6 is an all hands on deck type of situation.
“You go out here with a stomach virus, the flu or whatever you’ve got,’’ Terry said. “It’s not going to matter tonight.’’
In other words, the Mavs are in a whatever-it-takes mode. At this point, they don’t want anyone stealing their glory.
“We’re focused,’’ guard DeShawn Stevenson said. “We understand that it’s not over.
“We’ve got to go out here and try to handle business on their court. But knowing that makes me even more ready and excited.’’
Carlisle thrives on his team living in the moment. And tonight, he hopes, is a moment that will live with them forever.
“I think you can draw on some of the good things we’ve done this season, and certainly on other seasons,’’ Carlisle said. “But none of that guarantees anything.
“In this situation you’ve got to play whistle to whistle, we’ve got to really concentrate on our game. We know that there’s going to be runs and a lot of things going on, and we’ve just got to stay steadfast to what’s helped us get to this point.’’
Chandler noted that the pressure isn’t getting the best of the Mavs, and that this drive to the NBA title has been extremely pleasurable.”
“It’s fun,’’ Chandler said. “This is what you dream of, playing at this time of the year. Two teams left, elimination game.’’
An elimination game the Mavs want to use to the fullest so they can take their first NBA title back to Dallas and celebrate with their fans.
-- Dwain Price
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