PRE-DONUT: If you read ANY Game 5 preview, you must read this one: It's a Mavs Premium piece but it's free to you right now ... Our ‘Coach ‘Em Up' series continues with this coaching-level Video Breakdown of what's happened so far and what must happen next. Enjoy!
DONUT 1: Tonight, is Rick Carlisle coaching for his job?
The easy answer, complete with a qualifier: Yes.
"Yes,'' because he's not the type of man to coast, to rest on laurels or to do much else but grind ... which means Rick Carlisle is ALWAYS coaching for his job.
But of course, that's not really the context intended by the question, is it?
I will say again what I said in Sunday's Donuts about these "not being The Same Ol' Mavs yet'': There will be plenty of time for finger-pointing and back-stabbing and front-stabbing and hangman's nooses if this series continues to go south.
In that sense, it does sound like a finger-point when Tyson Chandler says of the 23-point lead lost in Saturday's Game 4:
"We didn't make any adjustments. (Brandon Roy) iso'd us and he did what he wanted to at the end of the game. We didn't make any adjustments, period. We didn't make any adjustments guarding him on the floor and we didn't make any adjustments any time. It was obvious."
I'll want to ask TY tonight if that comment is intended as a gentle poke to the coach's chest ... or if by "we,'' he really means "we.''
Which I think he does. I assume that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson -- who view themselves as part of the "we,'' too -- value their relationship with Rick and Rick's qualities as a coach and as a man, value them enough to make this a non-issue.
But it would certainly smooth the concerns if Rick (and the guys in uniform who are physically responsible for one of the three most epic fourth-quarter collapses in NBA playoff history) spend the next four or six days rendering the question moot.
I often talk and write about the "Mavs Culture.'' I always write about it as a positive thing: Starting with Cuban's passion, and trickling down to the way Donnie, Dirk, Kidd and the rest conduct their business ... that is a constant here. It is "Mavs Culture.''
But along with that, holding hands with it -- no, SQUEEZING hands to the point of circulation being cut off -- is what I am just now believing is the downside of Mavs Culture:
Even the players who weren't Mavs in 2006 in Miami or in 2007 in Golden State ... know. Feel. Identify.
What Brandon Roy is doing feels like what D-Wade did. Feels like what Baron Davis did. Like what Melo did. Like what Chris Paul and Manu and Tony Parker did.
"Mavs Culture'' isn't all positive, maybe. "Mavs Culture'' might also come with a haunting "here-we-go-again'' mindset every time something goes awry ... even in the minds of the newer players who didn't live it, but who identify with it because it's part of "Mavs Culture.''
DONUT 3: Let's develop some (more) scar tissue on the issue. Yeah, I'm gonna make you re-live the final six minutes of that April 23, 2011 disaster:
There is a lot of shot-making in there, no doubt. A couple of calls you don't like. A few unwieldy bounces.
But worse than that: Dallas revved up the team bus. You can see it in the aforementioned lack of adjustments made to Roy. (Remember the zone defense?) You can see it in Jason Terry's defense, but in TY's, too. It's as if giving up one point isn't a big deal because surely we're not going to give up 35!
And the result is something almost as damning as "choking.''
"Quitting.'' Quitting because they assumed the game was iced.
Now, can these old dogs learn from that new trick?
DONUT 4: BBIQ.
Reminder for tonight: Play so well, play so hard, that zebra flukes do not affect you, that accidental Roy backshots do not matter.
That means not committing a foul on a 3-point shooter in the final seconds when you are up four.
That play -- a wise and long and credentialled defender in Marion against a can't-jump-anymore Roy -- was a nutshell moment. How do you foul a 3-point shooter when you are up four? It's the one thing 'Trix's brain knows you CAN'T do.
That play had a vibe to it that cannot continue. Tonight, Dallas cannot let the start of this game be an emotional continuation of that one.
Of course, that is the on-paper advantage of being back here at home.
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DONUT 6: Do you double-team Roy tonight? You know, the Roy who only played eight minutes and didn't score in Game 2? Which Roy shows up? Do you let LaMarcus have his? Do you instruct TY to guard him smartly enough that TY never gets near six fouls?
Is the Dallas zone dead? Or is Rick fibbing a bit when he says he's defending Portland as if it employs two All-Stars? or perhaps to even call a zone defense? Evidentl
The Mavs appear able to negate one of those weapons, but apparently only one at a time. Would a double-team change that? Some zone? The third-leading vote-getting in this year's Defensive Player of the Year race, can he do more?
DONUT 7: I said it on TV last night: Hooray for Caron Butler if he is able to start truly practicing in the next two weeks ... (as always, so much misinformation out there) ... but I'd much rather the Dallas Mavericks skip grasping at straws and instead focus on real and immediate help.
Caron might be ready for the second round? What second round?
Why don't we try to find a way for Dirk to get more shots in the final quarter of a huge game in the first round and, you know, take it chronologically from there, OK?
DONUT 8: For years some Mavs followers have put it on the centers ("Dang Damp!'') when the other team's offense became a layup drill.
Don't make that mistake here.
"Allowing layups'' and "we're a jump-shooting team.'' Two things that go together like ... I dunno, Gerber's and cigarettes.
In Game 4's fourth quarter, Dallas was outscored 18-0 in the paint. Portland's shooting in there? The Blazers made 9-of-9.
The centers' fault? Not entirely. How do they get into the paint? They blow by Jet and Kidd. They muscle up Barea. They befuddle Marion.
An improvement in perimeter defense (whether that's personnel-related, as is D-Steve or Brewer) can be the start of something big tonight.
DONUT 9: We've got a special pregame show planned for tonight featuring yours truly and Earl K. Sneed from Mavs.com ... still hammering out the details, but we will be on the Plaza before the game and if you check back here or at FoxSportsSouthwest, which will air the show. See you tonight!
Also media-related: I'll join Newy Scruggs on 105.3 The Man this morning at 9:30 to preview the game and talk Mavs ...
DONUT 10: Mixed emotions about CP3 pushing the Lakers into a 2-2 tie, and for that matter about the Grizzlies being up 2-1 over the Spurs. On the one hand, it's "spit-happens'' evidence that in a sense takes Dallas off the hook for its failings. You know, "It's happening to LA and SA, too, so ...''
On the other hand: The possible vulnerability of those two powerhouses ... and the Lakers getting worn down before likely advancing to Round 2 against the winner of Mavs-Blazers ... and the Mavs having blown a chance to cruise into Round 2 with rest and confidence ...
Yeah, after looking at it that second way, my emotions just got un-mixed.
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DONUT 12: It is time for "Deferrential Dirk'' to morph back into "Demanding Dirk.''
In Games 1 and 2, Nowitzki was unstoppable in the final 15 minutes. He was more than the best player on the court; he joined D-Rose as being the MVP of the early postseason. In Game 3, he was dissatisfied with his late work, but still scored nine points in the loss.
And in G4? Took three fourth-quarter shots. Made one. Didn't touch the ball in the final two minutes of the game. Maybe didn't get open enough on pick-and-rolls for Jet and Kidd to feed him instead of taking bombs themselves.
History will remember this as "The Dirk Era.'' That is, by and large, a good thing. Tonight (and going forward, too), I want history in The UberMan's hands. I want Dallas' fate in Dirk's hands.
If Dallas' best isn't good enough, you will have to live with that.
I picked Dallas in 7. Oddsmakers say I am still right. If you disagree, you are picking against Dirk. I'll understand that better if you anticipate seeing "Deferrential Dirk.''
I expect to see "Demanding Dirk.''