|Mavs like position heading to playoffs|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 17 April 2008 12:52|
No pressure trying to live up to being the No. 1 seed, like last season when the Mavericks became the only top seed eliminated in a best-of-seven first-round series - a year after they lost in the NBA finals.
``It's definitely different,'' Dirk Nowitzki said Thursday. ``Last year the pressure was on us, and this year we kind of go out and play and have fun. Hopefully, we can do that.''
Plus, by beating New Orleans in the regular season finale Wednesday night, Dallas avoided starting the playoffs in Los Angeles against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
``I don't think we wanted to start in L.A.,'' Nowitzki admitted again.
Now the only way the Mavericks and Lakers can meet this postseason is if both win two series and get to the Western Conference finals.
The Mavericks (51-31) will still start the playoffs on the road for the first time since 2001 as the No. 7 seed.
Game 1 is Saturday night in New Orleans against the Hornets, the Southwest Division champions but a team lacking significant playoff experience.
``We hope it's an advantage,'' Jerry Stackhouse said. ``It can go both ways. You can have a team that inexperience starts to show during the playoffs, or they're so carefree from their inexperience that they go out and play lights out.''
The Mavericks have plenty of postseason experience, this being their eighth straight playoff appearance. Nowitzki, Stackhouse, Josh Howard and Jason Terry have all been involved in at least half of them. Point guard Jason Kidd, the midseason addition, has started 100 career playoff games with two trips to the NBA finals while in New Jersey.
But there have also been notable postseason failures, and those were recently. Dallas blew a 2-0 series lead in the 2006 finals, then won a team-record 67 games last season only to be upset in the first round by Golden State.
``What happened last year, that's behind us,'' Howard said. ``Now, we're just trying to win games. ... We're flying under the radar, guys are more loose and looking to have fun. The pressure is off.''
Howard and the Mavericks know what to expect in the playoffs, but they will be a new experience for MVP-caliber guard Chris Paul and many of the Hornets after they were one of the league's biggest surprises and best teams throughout the regular season.
``It's just a situation where we're not the team being talked about,'' coach Avery Johnson said. ``Hopefully, down the road we'll give somebody something to talk about.''
The Mavericks are only 12-11 since March 1. They had consecutive losses over the weekend to sub-.500 teams Portland and Seattle before rallying to beat the Hornets 111-98 in the regular season finale.
``It was good for us to win and get some momentum,'' Nowitzki said.
``It was important for us to win this game for our confidence, so we can go in on a high level,'' Terry said. ``Now we go down there, where we lost two games. We know that. But we also know we're a good team and we can beat them. Game 1 is big.''
Dallas and New Orleans split their four games during the regular season, with the home team winning each time. The Mavericks' last game in New Orleans - coach Avery Johnson's hometown - was Feb. 20, when they lost 104-93 in the first game after the All-Star break and Kidd's debut in his return to the Mavs after a trade from New Jersey.
``We've always believed we were going to be in the playoffs,'' Kidd said. ``Now that we're there, it's time for us to just have fun with it and find a way to win some games.''
Kidd capped the regular season with his 100th career triple-double, the 13th this season but first since rejoining the Mavericks, the team that drafted him. Kidd had 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, an impressive showing for the veteran against the talented youngster Paul in a playoff preview.
``More than sending a message, we've been kind of nudging Kidd to play that way for a while,'' Johnson said. ``He understands I like him to play that way, I love him to be aggressive.''
Notes: Stackhouse played 16 minutes Wednesday night after missing nine games because of a groin injury. ``I feel good,'' Stackhouse said Thursday. ``I didn't have any effects after the game, or any today, so that's definitely a positive.'' ... Nowitzki missed only four games because of his high ankle sprain last month. ``I came back a little early. If the playoffs wouldn't have been on the line, I probably would have rested a few more days,'' Nowitzki said Thursday. ``Now, it's good. Once the playoffs start, the adrenaline will be flowing. I don't think the ankle will slow me down.''