When two elite teams face off against each other with the stakes this high, anything besides a blowout will leave the losing team, especially playing on the road, with a feeling afterwards that it was a game they let slip away. An opportunity squandered. With so many tight games going down to the wire, the Miami Heat have shown a resiliency to turn it up another level and pull out the gutsy victory. But the Dallas Mavericks have made it to the NBA Finals showing these same traits and were left to question how the game got away from them so quickly with five minutes left in the game.
“We’re a veteran team so you can’t get down with a loss,” explained Nowitzki. “You have to come back strong on Thursday. If you’re the road team, you’re happy with the split. We just have to be sharper in some areas. Didn’t think we executed great there in the fourth quarter. (We) gave up too many offensive rebounds when it counted.”
Shawn Marion didn’t seem to be too worried about the opening loss that marks the first time the Mavs are behind in a playoff series this postseason. During the Mavs practice that was open to the media at the American Airlines Arena on Wednesday, Marion was loose and cracking jokes with Caron Butler and Jason Kidd as they warmed up.
“We have plenty of firepower,” Marion insisted after Game 1. “That’s not the question. The question is going out there and making sure we play our style of game. We got into playing their game. We got into a half court game and they prevailed. They took us out of a lot of things we normally do.
“You hold a team to 38 percent and 92 points, for us that’s usually a victory. To score 84 points is very rare for us. To get 67 shots as well. Even to shoot 37 percent. Most times we shoot 37 percent from the field, the other team is going to shoot lower than that. It was about equal.”
For all the focus on how the Heat defense shut down the Mavs high-octane offensive attack, the Heat also struggled from the field. But they grabbed 10 more offensive rebounds, providing extra opportunities to attack the basket again, especially down the stretch. Mavs forward Peja Stojakovic struggled mightily, going scoreless in almost 15 minutes, as did many others on the bench including J.J. Barea. These are the players that have given the necessary support for Nowitzki as they made it through the highly competitive West.
“We can get better in certain areas, especially on the defensive end and rebounding,” said Stojakovic. “Overall, good things happened to us last night. We were right there, (despite) how bad we shot from the outside. So we are optimistic.”
His coach, Rick Carlisle, also had a good feeling that his team would respond in Game 2 with a game where they’ll play more like, well, the Mavs usually do.
“We’ll play better,” he said. “I’m very certain of that. We had some opportunities that – shots we normally make, they didn’t go down. And so that was tough. But look, it’s a long series and we’ll adjust and do the things we need to do get ourselves in a better position.”
Whether it was an unintentional dig or not at the coaching staff, Marion’s preferred game-plan would be for the players to play freely.
“I think we were just calling so many sets, it just kind of took the rhythm out of everything we normally do,” he pointed out. “When we’re out there freelancing and just playing the game and making it up as we go, we’re one of the best to do it.”