Sunday Game 7 Mavs Donuts

The Spurs came into this 1-vs.-8 matchup rested and ready and looking virtually unbeatable in this duel. Suddenly, San Antonio may be in trouble, the Mavs level of play and level of confidence at a series high. Are they, as Monta whispers in ways only readers can hear, 'Destined to win this m---------'? Game 7 Mavs Donuts:

DONUT 1: Which team's in trouble? ...

The San Antonio Spurs are, relatively speaking, in trouble.

The lordly Spurs' last playoff participation nearly rewarded their excellence with a title stolen from them 11 month ago. They followed up their 2013 Finals loss to Miami with yet another brilliant regular-season campaign, a 62-game-winner in which they cruise-controlled it so much that no No. 1 seed has ever played its starters for fewer minutes.

The Spurs came into this 1-vs.-8 matchup rested and ready and looking virtually unbeatable in this duel.
But now? The Dallas Mavericks have played them to a draw, pushed them to today's 2:30 p.m. Game 7 in San Antonio, fought them onto the ropes ...

"Why not us?'' says Mavs owner Mark Cuban, and what Dallas has done to get to this point has been a matter of "believing.'' Or better, of "suspending disbelief.''

DONUT 2: On the ropes ...

In a very real way, the Spurs have no business being in this position and maybe never truly suspected they would be until ... now. What happened to nine straight wins over Dallas by an average of 14.8 points per?

Game 7, Dirk Nowitzki says, "is the ultimate thrill. It's win or go home. Nothing matters (from) before. It's just one game.''

Nothing matters from before. Meaning those nine straight losses are dead.

Nothing matters from before. Unless you wish to count Dallas' 4-0 record in Game 7's during The Dirk Era.

"I like Game 7s on their floor,'' says Devin Harris, who was there in 2006 when a trip through The Ugly-Ass River City meant a trip to the NBA Finals. "I'm 1-0."

DONUT 3: Breeding ground …
Success breeds that sort of confidence. The Dirk Era -- all capital letters, please, because that is how history will remember all of this -- The Dirk Era breeds that sort of confidence, too.

Confidence. And selflessness.

Confidence because The Uberman is one of the greatest close-out performers in NBA playoff history. In do-or-die games his scoring average hovers near 30 points. It becomes less about X's-and-O's and more about will and focus and talent, all the chemistry inside of him that had him blowing saxophones and rowing canoes and balancing on his head in pursuit of some wacky dream that there was an autobahn connecting Wurzburg to the NBA.

We're not dismissing the X's-and-O's of Dirk; Note two important studies we've done in the last couple of days on "How Dirk Can Find 'Air Space''' and "Nowitzki For 3 In Game 7.''

But we're just as interested in the psychology of it all. And suddenly, this collection of Mavs -- remember, Shawn Marion is the only roster member still around from the Dirk-led 2011 title -- believes the gap between them and Spurs royalty is narrow. If it exists at all.

It's not just Nowitzki, of course; before he arrived in Dallas, Rick Carlisle had coached in a pair of Game 7's.

His record? Two wins, zero losses.

DONUT 4: Oh, the selflessness ...

The Mavs will be attempting to become just the sixth No. 8 seed to take down the top-seeded team in the first round. Talent alone usually doesn't get that done because, well, the talent on an 8 doesn't generally match the talent on a 1.
And maybe it doesn't in this series, either.

So it takes something else. It takes, for instance, Monta taking over in Game 6 and then deflecting credit from those who would offer it, declining bait from those who would dangle it.

"My teammates just told me, 'We'll keep it close and then the fourth quarter is yours,''' says Monta, whose 29 points tied his playoff-career-high. "Mark Cuban told me the same thing."

So it's "yours.'' It's "his.'' Right?

Somebody in the media tries to lure Ellis into a conversation about "who's team'' the Mavs are. Monta won't play.

No,'' he says, "it's still Dirk's team."

That, dear friends, is "The Culture Of Dirk.'' That's how that locker room rolls, and on the rare occasions in the last decade-plus, when a member of the team didn't roll that way, he was tossed out the backdoor. "The Culture Of Dirk'' is so powerful that The Triangle of Trust figured it could even spray deodorant on Lamar Odom ... before he was tossed out the backdoor.

"The Culture of Dirk'' would seem to end the idea of Monta as "selfish.'' Maybe it improves his shot selection and maybe it upgrades his high-volume-shooter rep. But surely "selfish'' is dead.

Because "selfish'' doesn't play well in "The Culture Of Dirk.''

DONUT 5: Spurs, same deal …

It's worth keeping in mind, the Spurs -- led on the floor by the stoic-except-when-he-wants-a-whistle Duncan and the venerable Pop -- have the same "Us-First'' approach. And the same cool, realistic demeanor when it comes to things like hosting Game 7, a distinct advantage, of course.

"Well, you wouldn't give it away, but it doesn't guarantee you anything," Pop says. "We've won Game 7s and we've lost Game 7s.''

Yes, stuff happens. San Antonio has also lost in the first round as a 1-seed, just as Dallas did in 2007 to the "We Believe'' Warriors.
DONUT 6: Need a hangout for Sunday? …

DallasBasketball's crew will be in San Antonio but the Red Rock Bar & Grill crew will be waiting for you on Sunday afternoon for the 2:30 tip with drink specials for anyone wearing Mavs gear. If you're in North Dallas this is your place -- and tell 'em "Fish'' sent you!

DONUT 7: Numbers fib …

Sometimes, rather than a large sample size offering clarity, the volume of the numbers creates a series of contradictions, or even fibs.

This can be what happens when two teams have this much playoff experience, and this much of a track record of tangling with one another, and this much success over the course of the last decade-and-a-half.

An example: The Spurs never win a series that starts 1-1 when they lose Game 3.

But ...

They almost always win when up 3-2.

Which stat is the truth going forward? We dunno, because San Antonio has in this series followed both those historical trails.

Like Dirk says, "Nothing matters (from) before.''
DONUT 8: Catching up … is loaded with exclusive video, analysis and inside stuff on this series and more. Check out Archives -- make sure you're in a comfortable chair -- and dig in!

We cover it all, 24 hours a day, right down to hustling to give you today's referee assignments: You get Monty McCutchen, Marc Davis and Bennett Salvatore today.

DONUT 9: Stat O' The Day …

The Mavericks shot 52 percent in Game 6. That's the third time in this series they've shot at least 49 percent. ... and Dallas has won all three of those games.

"It's a tough matchup," Manu Ginobili says. "They're good, and they can score."

DONUT 10: What If I ...

If Dallas wins today, Game 1 of the second-round duel with the Blazers will be Tuesday in Portland.

Crazy thought, eh? But we thought you might like to start planning. Just in case.

DONUT 11: What If II …

We have spent -- or maybe wasted -- a grand amount of time in the last two weeks pondering the questions. "What if Dallas loses the series?'' "If they play hard, will you be satisfied?'' "Is the season a success even after the Spurs oust them?
Some might argue that a seventh game means the bar has been cleared. Others would insist the bar gets raised, that it is fluid, and that the Mavericks simply must vault over it -- or else.

But we'd like you to try this on for size: Not "What if the Mavs lose?'' But rather ...

What if the Mavs win?

DONUT 12: The Final Word ...

The Mavs know very well how to craft a message.

From the marketing department's use of social media to owner Mark Cuban's penchant for outspokenness to Dirk Nowitzki's "Let It Rip,'' there are no shortage of bumper-sticker moments with this franchise.

Indeed, "Why Not Us?'' seems to be catching on after Dallas' Game 6 win.

But sometimes the message is even better when it's real, raw and raunchy. videographer Willie Martin captures just such a moment following Dallas' Game 3 win over the Spurs at the AAC, key in propelling the Mavs to this Game 7.

There is energy and jubilation from the Nowitzki-led squad. And then there is Monta, circling back to find Carter, who'd hit the dramatic 3-pointer just before the buzzer In that game (as chronicled in detail here.)

"We're destined to win this m---------,'' Monta whispers to Vince.

It's not manufactured, with a T-shirt or a hashtag attached to it (yet). It's not polished. It's not designed as bulletin-board material and shouldn't be misused or misinterpreted that way.

It's just raunchy. And raw. And real.

And it reflects the sort of mental approach Dallas will need today if it plans on keeping the Spurs in trouble.

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