LOS ANGELES – It takes years to live down a reputation in the NBA.
Mavericks guard Jason Terry knows that better than most, having been wrongly accused of being a bust by some when he didn’t work out as a starting point guard early in his career.
But much like their scoring machine off the bench, these Dallas Mavericks are slowly chipping away at their reputation as a team that shrinks on the big stage.
Again, it won’t come overnight. Not even after nights like the Mavericks had Monday, when they rose up late and stunned the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal. But the Mavericks are on the road to recovering from being bounced in the first round of the playoffs in three of the four years prior to this one.
“There’s no quit in us,”Terry said. “We’re a veteran team. We’ve seen it all. And we pride ourselves on not giving in to adversity. When we were down 16 (Monday night), we knew there was still plenty of time left. There was a lot of game left to be played. And to be honest, we just don’t get rattled in those situations.”
Relative newcomers like Tyson Chandler, who has infused the Mavericks with his confidence and defensive presence, made it clear after Game 1 that the fragile Mavericks of the past are exactly that, the past.
“This is not the same old Mavs,” Chandler told ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande. “In the past, you beat ‘em up and then they give up and you get aggressive and you back down. This is a different team, different squad, different look. Hopefully we get a different outcome.”
Terry showed off some of that resiliency after halftime in Game 1.
It was his foul on Lamar Odom with 0.7 near half court that led to three free throws and turned a five-point Lakers lead into an eight-point advantage in the blink of an eye. A technical foul on Dirk Nowitzki, while trying to box out Ron Artest during the last free throw attempt, allowed the Lakers to stretch the lead to nine points at the break.
Terry stewed about it momentarily and then moved on. He was busy pumping up Corey Brewer for his role as energy man in the second half and trying to make sure that blunder before halftime didn’t end up costing the Mavericks.
“That play was over and done with by the time I got to the locker room,” Terry said. “That’s a part of what I’m talking about. We don’t get rattled. We deal with adversity … again, it’s still going to take some time to erase those doubters. The only way you can do it is by winning. And this was just one game. That game alone is not going to erase those doubts. We’re still going to have to prove night in and night out that we are not that old Mavs team. And that’s the edge, that’s the chip we have on our should ever night we go out there.”