The Lazarus Mavs Vs. The Lame Lakers
The Dallas Mavericks are 36-37 and as they boarded the plane immediately following Monday's practice at the AAC bound for LA, they trailed both the Jazz (in action Monday vs. Portland) and the Lakers -- both teams at 38-36.
"Yeah, this is a big game, as big as it gets this season,'' said Dirk Nowitzki, who is rising to the moment by coming off a week during which he averaged 29.7 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 62.1 percent from the floor and 45.5 from the arc. "It's national TV, Staples Center, Jack Nicholson courtside. I mean, it doesn't get any better than that."
The Mavs are well-aware and fully respectful of Utah's position in all this. For the purposes of the Lakers and the Mavs: Dallas could use the win to tie the series at 2-2. That would make conference record the tiebreaker, with LA owning just a half-game edge there. Just as key, a Dallas win would cut the Lakers' lead in the standings by a half-game.
"Even if we do win it, Utah's got probably the easiest schedule out of everybody,'' Dirk said. "They've got a bunch of home games. They're tough to beat at home. ... We're in a tough situation, but we're sure as heck going to try."
Actually, Utah and LA both have eight games remaining and Utah has five of those at home while LA has six at home. But Dirk's point is made: There are two mountains to climb here, and they are being approached with intensity -- and with the towel-snapping-in-the-locker-room humor that is a Nowitzki trademark.
Speaking on the subject of the Mavs organization's competitive nature, Dirk said, "Nobody gives up. I think we're all competitors. I think Mark being Mark, obviously being the first one, he is probably the biggest competitor I've ever met. ... I mean, you've seen the tweets with Donald Trump every day. They're competing over Twitter, those two morons."
Dallas has an injury issue with O.J. Mayo's shoulder, though he did work Monday. Meanwhile, the Lakers are not likely in such a playful mood. Kobe has worked through his ankle problem but Metta World Peace is out (maybe for a month) with a knee and on Monday the Lakers listed Steve Nash as questionable with a hamstring strain.
Maybe those are among the breaks Dallas needs to make happen what once seemed highly improbable. Failing to beat the Lakers might mean the "death knell'' for real as it is the start of a four-game roadie trip that continues at Denver on Thursday, at Sacramento on Friday and in Portland on Sunday.
So maybe having someone in charge highly capable of short-distance psychoanalysis will be of assistance.
"There's no need to overstate the obvious," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We need to win every game that we can win. That's where we're at. ... We're trying to be the greatest comeback since Lazarus.''
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