DONUT 1: "We're a team that everyone wants to play, for some reason or another,'' says Jason Terry of the Mavs, who knotted the Lakers for second in the West with 57 wins but by virtue of the tiebreaker will settle into the No. 3 slot, pairing them in a first-round matchup with No. 6 Portland that starts Satuday night at 8:30 at the AAC. "I guess it's good in a way. … All seven other teams wanted to play us. They're going to get their shot, one-by-one.''
Aw, Jet, all "seven'' might not have wanted Dallas, which has a brilliant regular-season pedigree but has been ousted from Round 1 in three of the last four seasons – despite being the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in two of those campaigns. Surely Portland isn't going to come right out and say it …
DONUT 2: "A good matchup for us,' forward Nicolas Batum came right out and said to the Oregonian.
Bold stuff from the Frenchie. Let's get some hot-off-the-presses DB.com video from Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and his Thursday afternoon session at the AAC, just for some sense and balance, OK?
Dallas has a midday practice today and DB.com will be all over it, with exclusive video and all the rest. Meanwhile, we've got more technology for you thanks to the new-and-improved DB.com Mavs Podcast starring Followill, Fish and Bacsik ... give it a poke! (I gotta couple of swear words in there. Tell your boss to stay off my ass about it, OK?)
POd Cast 4-14 by dbmavs
DONUT 3: OK, back to the "wanted'' thing. Is there some recent Dallas Mavericks-Portland history that grants Batum that level of confidence? That's worth reviewing. Staffer BJ Stahl helps as we look back at the teams' 2-2 split this season:
DONUT 4: First meeting -- Dec 15 Portland at Dallas – 103-98 Mavs
The Recap: After falling behind by 17 in the third, the Trailblazers rallied to tie it 93-all with 2:07 left. The Mavs finished by outscoring the 'Blazers 10-5, thanks mostly to Dirk's shots finally finding their way home after three subpar quarters.
The Quotes: "We had a big lead there again, and just hit a bad stretch again. … We just couldn't get any stops." -Dirk Nowitzki. "Dirk made two really tough shots, that's what he does. We did our best to make the shots tough, but he still made them." -Lamarcus Aldridge
DONUT 5: Second meeting -- Jan 4 Portland at Dallas – 84-81 Mavs
The Recap: Injuries were part of the story. Caron Butler was out for season after surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon, Dirk Nowitzki had a sprained knee, Brandon Roy had his injured knees. The rest of the story: Dallas's defense kept Portland at bay and a late scoring surge from Jason Terry put the Mavs over the top. This game was one of only two games this season -- and the only one over a winning team -- the Mavs won without Dirk.
The Quotes: "The fourth quarter is Jet's show. He's done it over and over. He's so clutch, so much fun to watch. He was huge for us and I was happy for him to get his rhythm back. When he makes shots like that, we're deadly. It was great to see him in the fourth quarter back to his usual self." -Tyson Chandler
"Defensively, we've been a top team in the league all year long and we can't let up now because we're missing two of our main pieces. We have to really, really concentrate on defense now. We shut them down in the half-court defense in the final quarter, so that was big." -Jason Terry
DONUT 6: Third meeting -- Mar 15 Dallas at Portland – 104-101 Portland
The Recap: Though Dallas shot the ball extremely well, Portland crashed the offensive glass and forced turnovers, resulting in 18 more shots and 10 more free throw attempts. The Trailblazers also got a throwback performance from Brandon Roy, who surprised even himself, I think, and scored 21. Dirk had a chance to force overtime, but missed the shot.
The Quotes: "In that situation you've love to get a completely unmolested shot, but it's difficult. I thought Dirk did a good job of creating a look and we just didn't get it down." -Coach Rick Carlisle
"Man, this is a tough one. You shoot 60 percent on the road and lose, that's tough. Turnovers killed us down the stretch . . . We doubled them in turnovers and that really hurt us. Really, it was offensive rebounds in the first half and turnovers down the stretch." -Dirk Nowitzki
DONUT 7: Fourth meeting -- April 3 Dallas at Portland – 104-96 Portland
The Recap: The final game of the Mavs' Last Epic Road Trip -- three straight back-to-backs, six games in nine nights, a hangover from a monster loss a few nights before at LA. Playing even worse than one might expect given all that, Dallas got steamrollered. Portland led by 21 points at one juncture -- the 29-19 fourth quarter was all garbage time.
The Quotes: "No excuses, we're not gonna make excuses,'' Carlisle said then. "Our first half was poor, we knew that, we battled back in the second half, but they were better tonight.''
Added Dirk: "You go through ups and downs in a season. Obviously, it's a little late in the season to go through a down. That's a little disappointing. But it could be worse. It could be in the playoffs."
DONUT 8: Now, do Dirk's quote again, please …
"It could be worse. It could be in the playoffs."
And now … it WILL BE in the playoffs. Wins. And losses. "Wants'' and want-to.
DONUT 9: Before Wednesday's regular-season-ending thrashing of New Orleans, Mavs owner Mark Cuban said Las Vegas might make all four second-tier seeds the favorites in the Western Conference playoffs. And after the win, without yet knowing that Dallas foe would be Portland, Terry played the same tune, insisting, "Now, we're the underdog… . The feeling is, we have something to prove.''
Sorry, fellas. You're not getting off that easy.
DONUT 10: A 57-win team is not an underdog to a 48-win team – even a 48-win team that has made positive changes over the course of the season-long four-game split. That positive change? The trade for Gerald Wallace? Arguably balancing that out? The balky knees of Roy, who is no longer the every-game superstar he was once destined to be … but could raise his game to that level on a given night or against a given opponent.
I think what we're establishing here is that there are legit reasons for national observers to pick Portland in a landslide (the true underdog) to win this series. ... but that the evidence comes from projections, NOT much from what anyone has actually seen in the games actually played.
They are PROJECTIONS ... or, even less likely to be accurate, reflections backwards on editions of Mavs teams that lost first-round series.
DONUT 11: Is that submissible evidence? Fine. What's Portland's playoff record in the last decade? Since 2000, Dallas has nine series wins. And Dallas has won 49 postseason games. During the same period Portland has won SEVEN games. And ZERO series.
Is THAT submissible, too?
Did Tyson Chandler lose a bunch of Dallas playoff series? Did Jason Kidd choke against the 2007 Warriors? Does Shawn Marion seem overwhelmed by all this? Hell no. He's getting loose by watching movies -- "Matrix at the Movies,'' part of our video series as Shawn reviews "Hall Pass.''
(Speaking of movies: If you want a chance at the FREE AMC Movie Card Facebook Giveaway, "LIKE" Game Havens and be in the drawing for the 10 cards!)
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DONUT 13: DFW native LaMarcus Aldridge is now Portland's nightly superstar, and is wisely respectful of what the Mavs have done, this year and over the course of their 11-season streak of winning 50-games plus.
"Not happy,'' he told the local paper in describing his reaction to the Dallas matchup. "It's not like, ‘Oh thank you, we've got Dallas!' They are really, really good. It's going to be a tough task.''
Tough. And enjoyable.
Says Dirk: "Now the fun season starts.''
Indeed. And it might just be fun being "wanted.''