|Dirk, Mavs figure things can't get worse against Hornets|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 23 April 2008 12:25|
To snap out of their funk, and start climbing out of an 0-2 hole against the New Orleans Hornets, all the Dallas Mavericks have to do is get on the court Friday night in front of their home fans.
OK, he acknowledged, they also need to ``play in attack mode,'' which means getting more physical on both ends of the court.
And it would be great if they could play better defense and hit a few more open shots.
Turning to specifics, he mentioned needing to contain Chris Paul, needing to find ways to turn Jason Kidd into the playmaker he's supposed to be and needing a reliable second option on offense.
But despite all those pesky, basketball-related issues, Nowitzki repeatedly returned Wednesday to the notion that being back in Dallas - where the Hornets haven't won since January 1998 - will cure all that ails the Mavs.
``We've got to believe that,'' he said. ``I think if we win on Friday, then everything will already look a lot better. Right now, it doesn't look that good. But if we do all the things we did at home all year long - that's play together, push the ball, make some shots and actually get some stops - we should be all right.''
Dallas led by the opener by 12 at halftime, but it's been all New Orleans since.
The Hornets wound up taking Game 1 by 12, then doubled the margin in Game 2. The real eye-popping numbers have been put up by Paul, who went from 35 points and 10 assists in the first playoff game of his career to 32 points and 17 assists.
``The last six quarters on both ends of the court have probably been the best six quarters we've had all season long,'' Hornets coach Byron Scott said.
Nowitzki is right about how much of a different one win could make. Being down 2-1, but coming off a win, is a world apart from being down 3-0 and hearing talk build about blowing up the team, firing the coach and all other doomsday scenarios.
The Mavs are at that kind of a crossroads.
Since being up 2-0 to the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA finals, Dallas has lost 10 of its last 12 playoff games. The skid includes a first-round sweep last season, wasting a 67-win regular season, and halfway toward getting swept in the first round this year.
``The guys are not happy with the way they've played,'' coach Avery Johnson said. ``They came in this morning and I saw some angry looks, but I hope we take that disappointment and controlled anger into practice tomorrow and iron out a couple of things and then take it out on our opponents.''
The anger seemed to subside by the time guys reached reporters.
Perpetually upbeat Jason Terry came out smiling ``because we are back home where we are loved, away from all of that voodoo down there in New Orleans.'' Then he echoed Nowitzki's themes about the comfort of being cheered by their fans and about a Game 3 win changing everything.
Kidd talked about ``taking a page from them in understanding to keep attacking.'' The logic is fine, but it's strange that a team filled with finals-tested veterans would have to learn about playoff poise from a group of postseason novices.
``You can always play with passion and have fun with it,'' Kidd said. ``We just need to relax, we're at home, and use that to our advantage.''
The last time the Hornets played in Dallas was the season finale. They were pulling way in the second half until Kidd and Terry fueled a 32-8 surge.
Although New Orleans was locked into the No. 2 seed, the Hornets went all out to beat the Mavs to keep open the chance of drawing Denver in the first round. Dallas went all out to win and avoid a first-round matchup with the Lakers. Nowitzki even said so after that game.
New Orleans players had some fun using those quotes as bulletin-board material coming into the series. Now they can have even more fun by winning Friday and Sunday, then returning home to get ready for the second round.
Paul insists the Hornets aren't thinking about a sweep. They just want to keep doing all those things on Nowitzki's list of frustrations.
``The best part about it is we won two games, but at the same time it means absolutely nothing,'' Paul said. ``It's the first team to four.''
Center Tyson Chandler, who has dominated Dallas' big men, also sounded like a grizzled playoff vet, talking about ``picking our spots, allowing the game to come to us individually.''
``The thing I like is everybody's aggressive offensively and defensively,'' he said. ``I think we've gotten in a flow. Everybody's in rhythm.''
AP sports writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed.