DALLAS — As they filed off of the court Thursday afternoon the Dallas Mavericks looked like they had just been through a training camp practice.
They’ve had so much time off since clinching their spot in the Western Conference finals, with last Sunday’s win over the two-time defending champion Lakers, the Mavericks have had to lock back down and get into training camp mode as they wait.
They know they’re going to face a team in either Oklahoma City or Memphis that poses far different challenges than what they saw from either Portland in the first round or the Lakers in the conference semifinals. Neither team can match the Mavericks’ collective experience, but they’re young and more athletic, for whatever that might be worth at this stage of the season.
“In many ways all that stuff is out of the window when you get to this point,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after the practice ended. “Whatever teams gets to the third round will have won two series to get to this point. They will be a in a groove and they will have a lot of confidence, so at this point I don’t believe those teams will be thinking about how inexperienced they are. They’re going to keep playing.”
That’s why Carlisle’s team will have to concentrate its attention on what it does best, and through two rounds that’s been sharing the ball, knocking down perimeter and mid-range shots, defending the paint and rim and using their depth and versatility to outplay foes when it matters most.
“We’re going to need to concentrate on playing our game well,” Carlisle continued. “There are going to be certain challenges with the next round that we are going to face that will be unlike the challenges we faced in the first two rounds. We’re going to see a lot more quickness, athleticism and teams that are much better at creating turnovers, forcing turnovers and converting turnovers into baskets. So taking care of the ball and being able to get back in transition and, as always rebounding, is going to be a big factor.”
The coaching staff doesn’t have to worry about the players being ready. In addition to getting in valuable practice time that most teams can’t find on the schedule anywhere throughout the regular season, the Mavericks are keeping a close eye on the Thunder and Grizzlies.
“Real close,” Mavericks center Tyson Chandler told ESPNDallas.com. “I watch every game, do as much scouting as I can. You can scout both teams, but you don’t know which team you’ll be playing so you kind of just key into the game and watch how Memphis rolls, how Oklahoma City runs things. I guess we’ll see [Friday night] maybe where you’re going to land.”
Since the Mavericks have home court advantage for the conference finals, they know will start the series here at home. Game 1 is Sunday if the Thunder can finish off the Grizzlies in six games. Game 1 will be here Tuesday if the Grizzlies extend the series to seven games, with Game 7 Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Carlisle praised both teams for still being in the mix, which league superpowers in San Antonio, Los Angeles and Boston can attest is no easy thing to do these days.
“They’ve done a lot of great things in the postseason,” Carlisle said of the Thunder, “Memphis has as well. That series is far from over. There is still a lot to be determined.”
However it plays out, the Mavericks will be ready for anything.