Dirk Nowitzki entered Sunday calling the matchup at the Lakers a “must-win.” That can be dangerous verbal and mental territory because …What if you lose?
But, I thought, Dirk is no dummy. Part of the reason he was able to label this game that way, maybe, is because the Kobe-less Lakers are awful. The Lakers came in with 16 wins, and having lost lost 20 of their last 24. The only LA guy who drew your eye to him was Kobe, opting to show up at the Staples Center for a change to watch his Lakers (or maybe to wink at free-agent-to-be Rajon Rondo).
So it wasn’t quite the sunny SoCal get-well-card Dirk, and I, were planning on as Dallas needed Monta Ellis to score 18 of his 31 points in the third quarter, and a team 16-3 closing spurt in the final 6:36 to secure a 100-93 victory.
It is, though, another “next win.’’
The other day Rick Carlisle spoke to Dallas’ desperation by saying, “The next win is the best win.” It was a bit of basketball poetry…and it applies here. “Best win.’’ Because the alternative is so awful.
You got your next win. Now, how about the next-next one?
Here come five straight home games. Tuesday vs. LeBron and the Cavaliers. Then a breather before Friday against the Clippers. …then the Thunder. …then the Magic in town. .. then the visiting Grizzlies.
Will it be easy? Well, it’ll be easier if Monta is truly “back’’ from a slump, as he proclaimed yesterday. Easier if Dirk can bust out of his own post All-Star break skid during which he’s scoring about 12 points per game. Easier if Chandler Parsons (returning with 11 points and six rebounds in 35 minutes after missing seven games with a sprained ankle) is OK, and easier if defensive weapons like Tyson Chandler and Rajon Rondo and yes, Al-Farouq Aminu (five rebounds, six steals, three blocked shots and 13 points in LA) keep it together.
“If it ain’t rough,’’ Carlisle said of the impossibly difficult West playoff chase, “it ain’t right.”
More poetry for a team that should look at this schedule not with dread, but as an opportunity to climb. Not “must-wins.” But maybe “next wins.’’ And probably, if they are lucky enough and good enough, “rough’’ wins.