Sometimes I don't like being right. Before this series I said Thunder in five. It ended up being Thunder in five.
But as gritty and as gutty as these Dallas Mavericks have played this entire series, you have to admit — you were hoping for six. At least I was.
You were hoping the Mavs could bring this back to Dallas for one more game. The San Antonio Spurs sure were, I'm certain. Anything to get a little more rest and to get the Thunder a little more beat up.
And for a brief moment in the fourth quarter on Monday, it looked like it might happen.
Dirk Nowitzki scored a layup with 7:50 remaining to bring the Mavericks within three points, 101-98. On the other end Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka missed a short jumper, and badly at that.
This was the moment. The momentum was there to be seized. The opportunity to tie the game was three points away. But Nowitzki missed a three. Devin Harris tracked down the rebound and the Mavs had another shot at the tie. This time it was J.J. Barea. He missed from 25 feet.
And just like that, it was gone. You didn't realize it at the time, but that was the last chance to extend this series. Russell Westbrook made two free throws on the next possession. A Barea turnover led to a Westbrook field goal. The game kept rolling away from Dallas. The Mavs scored six points in the final seven minutes.
It was the worst possible time to go ice-cold, if you were interested in extending playoff basketball in Dallas a little bit longer.
The odds got longer for these Mavericks the longer the series went, it seemed, and not because the Thunder kept winning. It's because the Mavericks kept losing … players.
Chandler Parsons? Hurt before the playoffs even started.
Deron Williams? Lord he tried, but that sports hernia finally took over in Game 4.
David Lee? The heel stopped working going into Monday night.
Salah Mejri? Hip injury. Done for Game 5.
Nowitzki, Harris and Barea? Battled through injuries of varying degrees.
And now comes "idiot'' echoes from Mark Cuban having said Durant is OKC's lone superstar (dissing Westbrook), and a Tuesday Exit Interview session (DB.com is at the AAC for that), then a handful of offseason surgeries, and then a mountain of decisions to be made.
But for the moment? Know that Rick Carlisle did all he could from a coaching standpoint. Nowitzki put the Mavs on his back whenever possible. But not even Nowitzki -- under-publicizing the fact he was under the weather -- could dial up a "Classic Dirk" moment when the game got into the final minutes. There was only so much those 37-year-old legs and arms could do.
Dallas was banged up beyond comprehension. Oklahoma City was not. Add in two of the best talents in the game in Kevin Durant and Westbrook and, well, you get the picture. This was a series pitting Nos. 3 and 6 seeds in name only.
Before the playoffs, about two weeks before when the Mavs were scratching and clawing at anything it could find to get into the playoffs, Carlisle told the media that it was "important" that the Mavs get into the playoffs. I remembered thinking to myself, "Really? Important?" I didn't give those Mavs a chance against anyone going into the playoffs and I thought to myself, "Maybe they just need a break, a clean offseason." Certainly Nowitzki could use it.
But in truth there was a level of importance to making the playoffs, aside from the result. The regular season is much different than the playoffs. Everything is harder. Character gets tested. Look at the Golden State Warriors now without Stephen Curry. We're going to find out a lot about that team in the next few weeks, assuming they handle the Houston Rockets.
We found out quite a bit about Dallas in this series. These Mavs are as tough as they come. They don't make excuses. They outplayed their talent, frankly.
We found out Nowitzki has a little more left in the tank. We found out the kids — Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson — are more than just garbage-time players. We found out Raymond Felton is the type of player the Mavs should try and keep around. Same with Zaza Pachulia.
We also found out just how much these Mavs miss Parsons, and how much they might miss him should he opt out of his contract and move on this offseason. (That's not a prediction, just a worry. Same with Dirk - seen in this nice DMN photo below; he's not going anywhere, as Fish writes, but it's smart of Rick to make sure to "court'' him.)
But that's for another day. We'll explore all of those storylines with time. Right now, take a breath and appreciate what these Mavs did. It doesn't seem like much, winning just one game in a five-game series.
But it was a gut check, and regardless of the result of the series, these Mavs passed.