|Top-seeded Mavs on brink of first-round elimination|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 19:11|
His Dallas players are getting outdone by a team that wasn't supposed to do much more than show up in these NBA playoffs.
Johnson's top-seeded Mavericks are on the brink of elimination and the thoroughly uncomfortable situation that would come with it: watching Don Nelson and No. 8-seeded Warriors for the rest of the postseason after a shocking early exit.
Golden State again got by on its guile and another spectacular, game-saving performance by Baron Davis in every way, beating the Mavericks 103-99 on Sunday night for a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven first round series.
The Mavs will try to salvage their season at home Tuesday night in Game 5. Otherwise, Mark Cuban's club's seventh straight playoff trip will be considered one of the most royal failures in playoff history.
Just when Dallas stressed the importance of picking up its defensive intensity, Davis had success all over the floor. One sequence late in the third quarter perfectly told the story: Davis swished a 3 with a hand in his face to pull Golden State within 77-75, blocked Jerry Stackhouse's 3-point attempt on the other end, then dunked moments later off a steal to send the game into the final quarter tied at 77.
Nelson, who groomed Johnson to be his replacement in Dallas, has been mellow throughout Golden State's first playoff trip since he took the Warriors to the postseason during his first stint as coach in 1994. Nellie sat outside in the back of a pickup truck before the morning shootaround, smoking a cigar with a couple of others.
Johnson, finishing his second full season in charge, has been feeling the pressure.
And if the Warriors keep playing like this, they will be on to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 1991, when they lost in the second round to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Johnson said his team needed to rediscover all the things that carried the Mavs to be NBA's best regular-season record of 67-15. Dirk Nowitzki acknowledged after the morning shootaround that recovering from a 3-1 deficit would be a nearly impossible feat.
``We haven't played with the type of swagger we played with all year,'' Johnson said before the game. ``We're going to need to get it and get it here soon.''
Golden State, with its deafening, towel-waving home crowd, stayed close enough in the first three quarters despite being outshot and outrebounded - and even beat at its own hustle game at times by the desperate Mavs.
It was down the stretch that Dallas collapsed, getting outscored 18-5 during one stretch and surrendering all the big plays nobody would have expected from this talent-filled roster.