G2 Mavs All-Access: Balanced On A Razorblade
A game never truly comes down to a lone play. To describe it in such terms is a gross oversimplification that denies the importance of everything that preceded or followed that singular event, stripping the whole to define it by the narrow, characterizing a complete being by its nose … yet, how do you turn away when that nose is once more crushed to spite the face.
This time, it was Jason Terry committing a needless foul on an inbounds pass to Kevin Durant with 50.4 second to play … and only two seconds on the shot clock, the play that ultimately put the Oklahoma City Thunder up for good as the Dallas Mavericks once more fell short when the game balanced on a razorblade, waiting to slide to one side or the other. Dirk Nowitzki missed an unchallenged 3-pointer with 1:13 to play, followed by a fadeaway that tantalized us all by bouncing high – a cracked mirror's reflection of Durant's game winner in Game 1 – before finally falling away.
Terry's mistake was one of many, but came when the spotlight shone the brightest, when its impact carried the most weight.
In the wake of a second strong punch to the gut of the Mavs hopes to take this series, we're left to wade in the anger and frustration … in bruised amazement. Blame is so easily cast in all directions at once; from Terry's play to the wasted brilliance of Dirk (31 points, 10-of-19 field goals) to Shawn Marion's continued nationally-ignored elite defense that has Durant shooting 15-of-44 through two contests to a great bounce-back game from Ian Mahinmi to …
Four total points separate these teams after two games, but it feels like an infinite number of bounces have denied the Mavs their favor.
"We're really just a couple of bounces away from being up 2-0,'' Dirk said.
Wearing these losses, standing in the pool of our cracked, but not broken, hearts we step from the constraints of the mythical "unbiased" sports writer – a species outnumbered on this planet by sasquatches or Loch Ness Monsters – and wallow in the hurt for a moment … but only for a moment.
"We just haven't made enough plays," Rick Carlisle said. "It's tough, there's no question about it, but we've had opportunities but we haven't cashed in. They've made one more play than we have in both games."
Four points over two games. Four freaking points! One more play allowed than made in each game, a pair of whiskers from a 2-0 series lead … but a deep chasm digging deep into the darkest shadows of basketball existence resting between what could have been and what is … the millimeter enveloping the miles between a laugh and a tear, joy and pain.
This is the fundamental draw of sport. It's why we ride the highest waves of elation our teams pour over our lives and the key to how we bond in the hurt spawned in their failures. It's the thin plain that divides heaven from hell. And, it's the reason the extreme hyperbole we use so freely to describe the outcome of a game hits our ears not with dishonesty, but hymns of truth. It's not religion, but it has a soul … and we all share in it.
When we cursed the name of Kendrick Perkins for his overtly physical play behind the mask of a painted on scowl as he shoved hard into Dirk's back, leading to Nowitzki turning and throwing a forearm of his own before the two squared off and were separated by teammates and officials with five minutes to play in the first quarter, earning double technicals; we do so not because Perkins has committed an egregious sin against humanity, but because he dares to stand between the Mavs and their ultimate goal, because he crosses the man who wears our hopes in the names on the front and back of his jersey.
Summarized Dirk: "He tried to bully me and I bullied back. We talked about some stuff and moved on."
Added Carlisle: "The dirty bullshit's gotta stop.''
We, the collective of fans, are pissed. We're broken, if only for the moment. We're ready to give up, fight back, move on, linger, take arms against the naysayers, yield to doubt … to turn in every direction at once, spun by the dizziness of losing two games by a combined four points.
For all of the tangled mass of emotions, things are seldom as dire as they seem in moments like these. A separation that feels like centuries is truly only seconds, and what falls one way may lean the other the next time around.
Yes, we're pissed … I mean, did we mention it was four damn points? … but even if we think we hear the death bells ringing in the distance our team is yet to stand with their heads beneath the guillotine regardless of odds imprisoned in the past.
There's no denying the growing familiarity with late-game mistakes, such as Jason Kidd's errant pass or Terry's foul in the final minutes. There's no erasing the memory of Dirk's shot bouncing high off the rim with 27.9 seconds to play before falling harmlessly back to the ground as if guided by a hand that would deny this team any semblance of good luck.
We're forced to wonder why Brendan Haywood seems incapable of matching Perkins physical presence, to ask "why now" when noting the illness that appeared to steal the real Delonte West from the first game and a half of this series and to mutter "what the hell" as Russell Westbrook, a mediocre midrange jumpshooter by reputation and execution (37.6 FG% from 3-to-9 feet, 37.7 FG% from 10-15 feet: neither of which rank in the top 40 for guards who averaged 20 minutes per game this season according to Hoopdata.com), suddenly can't miss from this range … or so it feels.
Our Mavs world is crumbling. We're all running around screaming pointing to the blatant cracks in the sky, for they are real, at the great shards of blue crashing to the ground around us, but in our haste to condemn what is lost we discard thoughts for what is to come. In the wounds of two groin-kick losses we take no notice of the fact that Dallas comes home having allowed nothing more than OKC to maintain their homecourt advantage by the slimmest of margins possible.
What's fractured is not yet beyond repair. We'll not pretend this was the desired course or that the road hasn't been made infinitely tougher after two golden opportunities were left to waste, but forgive us if we harbor some splinter of hope.
One shot, one foul, one errant pass … one fly landing on the opposite shoulder of this team waving their arms from the tightrope high above … and everything changes. So the case has been, and so it may still remain.
Do we really doubt the resiliency of a core that won a title a year ago, that erased a 16-point deficit delivered by a 7:27 span in the first and second quarter when the Mavs committed seven turnovers and surrendered a 23-6 run, to give themselves every chance to take Game 2.
Make your funeral plans if you must, toss the curses you've earned by caring, but forgive us if we choose to wait a little longer before we turn our backs. On Thursday the series comes back to Dallas for the first time and with it a chance to claim the first step towards redemption.
"We've got enough warriors over here,'' Dirk said. "We're gonna come back Thursday and respond the way we did tonight when we were down 16."
Bruised and in pain, but with a heart still beating … even if there's some leaking that needs mending.
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