DALLAS — Mavericks forward Brian Cardinal says he was just playing good, smart basketball.
Trail Blazers guard Patty Mills and his teammates beg to differ.
Cardinal’s hard pick on the diminutive Mills (above) in the final seconds of the Mavericks’ Game 5 win Monday night has caused a stir in Portland and beyond. Mills took to Twitter to send a message of his own:
Cardinal addressed the issue after the Mavericks’ film session/practice today and seemed genuinely puzzled that sticking to the fundamentals had caused such a controversy.
“I’m surprised they are so mad about it,” Cardinal said. “They pick up J.J. [Barea] full court and they’re gonna double team him. they’re playing hard. They’re playing aggressive, just like I am. They said there is no time on the clock, the game is over and yet they’re going to play hard, full court and press. I’m just doing the same, playing hard just like they are.”
Cardinal said he wouldn’t have done anything other than watch the final seconds click off the clock if Mills hadn’t picked Barea up full court and been so aggressive with the game already decided.
“It would have been just like if they had stolen the ball from [J.J.] and run down and scored a layup,” Cardinal said. “They’re playing the game of basketball, just like I am … I wasn’t trying to hurt him. I was just playing smart basketball, just playing hard basketball. That’s what they were doing, trying to play hard and trying to play smart. It just so happened that they he picked J.J. up and I was trying to relieve some pressure.”
The Blazers didn’t see it that way. Their bench erupted after the lick and Wesley Matthews and several other players made it clear that they did not appreciate Cardinal’s actions.
“If they are mad,” Cardinal said, “they should be mad at Earl [Barron], [Nicolas] Batum or whoever else was in the game, for not calling out that screen.”
The Rose Garden crowd is one of the best in all of sports and they are sure to be on edge in Game 6. A loss ends the Blazers’ season. It’s not as if there won’t be plenty of other people in attendance — Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban, who said he was hit in the face with an unidentified flying object from the crowd during Game 3, or any of the Mavericks’ regulars — to draw the attention of the Blazers’ faithful.
My guess is that Cardinal will have his moment in the spotlight, though he swears he is not expecting to get any extra attention.
“Shoot, no,” he said when asked if he had moved up on the list of targets for the crowd. “It really doesn’t matter to me. I’ve played a total of what, two minutes this series? If they’re worried about me and my screens … they’ve got great fans, intense fans. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, just like Games 3 and 4. And we’re looking forward to going there and playing. It’ll be an intense Game 6 and one that we’re excited to play. And we’ll see what happens.”