DALLAS – As the Dallas Mavericks have discovered the hard way, defending NBA champs
always get hit with the other team’s best shot.
The Mavs have seen that time and time again, as teams come very well prepared to play the team that won last year’s NBA title. The Mavs have become the barometer – especially on the road – and a way for teams to show their home crowd just how impressive they can be when the champs come to town.
But that places more pressure on the Mavs to be on top of their game every game. And that’s a near impossible task for any team.
“It’s been a tough year from that standpoint,’’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “A lot of teams have been hitting some incredible shots against us where you’re just shaking your head.
“It just feels like this year has been more than any regular season, but it is what it is. If you’re the champs, some stuff next year isgoing to go against you and you’ve got to fight through it.’’
The Mavs (34-28) have been fighting through it, even through the midst of a heartbreaking 112-108 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and a disappointing 123-121 triple overtime loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.
“I’ve never been bitten by a snake, but I definitely feel like we’ve had some misfortune in these situations where in the past we’ve been the team that came out victorious,’’ guard Jason Terry said. “But we’ve got a lot of fight in us.
“But if this doesn’t get you ready for the playoffs, nothing will.’’
Terry said there’s no reason to jump off a bridge just because they couldn’t hold on and beat the Jazz.
“Utah, obviously they’re fighting for their playoff life, we’re fighting for ours and they showed it,’’
Terry said. “Each guy that was inserted into the game (Monday) played like he was playing for something, and you’ve got to love it.
“(Jason) Kidd said after the second overtime, he said, ‘You’ve got to love this.’ And I just looked at him and smiled and said, ‘(Heck) yeah. Let’s keep playing.’ ‘’
And play on they did.
Between the overtime game against the Lakers and the three overtime game against the Jazz, the Mavs played the equivalent of 41.7 percent of another game.
“That’s a lot of basketball, but it was a battle all the way to the end,’’ Marion said. “We just couldn’t pull it out.’’
The Mavs know they need to pull out a few victories in some of these next four games if they don’t want to become just the third NBA champion to not advance to the playoffs the following season.
“It’s coming down to crunch time, teams are playing to win, everybody wants to be in the playoffs, nobody wants to lose, and the season is coming to a close and guys want to make a statement,’’ guard Delonte West said. “We played two dangerous teams.
“We played a team that’s scratching to get in the playoffs (in Utah) and we played a team that’s trying to hold position (in the Lakers). It’s anybody’s game out there.’’
-- Dwain Price
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