Yeah, the negatives are piling up already, even though it’s only one game in the books, albeit a 108-70 debacle on Saturday at Oklahoma City in which the Mavs were never really in. “We obviously got embarrassed,” said Dirk Nowitzki, the only Mavs player who was an offensive threat at all. And now, any other potential threats are being stripped away by the basketball gods, the same gods who oversaw a Dallas hot streak to end the regular season (including a playoff push up to the No. 6 seed)…but now may be robbing the Mavs of David Lee, Deron Williams and J.J. Barea.
Barea experienced a two-week-long streak near the end of the season where he scored 25 points with six assists per game. But against OKC, the pesky Mavericks guard scored just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 16 minutes, limited by a groin problem that plagued him near the end of the regular season.
“I’m very concerned,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Barea’s re-aggravated groin injury, which caused him to be shut down for the second half of the loss. “He’s a very, very important guy.”
So just how important is Barea in Carlisle’s mind? So important that Barea played alongside Deron Williams in the starting lineup instead of replacing him at point guard. Unfortunately, that “tool” pulled from Carlisle’s toolbox didn’t work, maybe in part because D-Will wasn’t moving comfortably in the second half either, looking like he too re-aggravated one of his series of injuries.
Toss in David Lee (who missed game one with a foot problem and is questionable for Monday’s 7 p.m. game 2 at OKC) and go ahead and include Zaza Pachulia (playing without complaint despite an Achilles that I’m sure is bothering him), and Dallas has even less of a shot in this series than anyone thought against a loaded No. 3 seed Thunder club.
“It’s been a next-man-up proposition all year long,” Carlisle said, citing the Mavs’ plan to rely even more on Raymond Felton and Devin Harris to pick up the backcourt slack. We’ve been down bodies all year long and this is no different.”
Well, it’s a little different.
Dallas did a wonderful job at regular season’s close in regard to treating nightly outings as “playoff-like games” (Dirk’s phrasing), and when things went wrong on the way to a 42-40 record, they did a good job “flushing it” (Rick’s phrasing). But some of those “playoff-like games” were staged against bad teams, and that’s not going to happen in this series, obviously. And “flush it” is a great mental self-help trick in many circumstances, but in a playoff series that features one team’s frailties against another team’s strengths, over and over and over again, what you try to “flush” just keeps floating back to the surface.
Barea was the Western Conference Player of the Week at the start of April. Dirk is a legend. Those two “trophies,” and every bit of praise in between of every player on this roster are of precious little value now. The Mavs don’t have defenders who can stop Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (as few teams do, witness their combined regular-season average of 52 points), and with Barea hobbled — not to mention Chandler Parsons and the knee surgery that put him out for the year — the Mavs don’t have enough offensive firepower, either.
We’ve added injury to insult to injury, with the faintest of hopes being pinned on the idea that maybe rookie Justin Anderson will be forced to play more minutes, and that he’s too young to even acknowledge his lack of readiness, or that maybe Dirk can go nuts offensively just one last time. And even if those things occur together, they’ll need to be married with a night where OKC plays poorly, or where they take their collective foot off the gas pedal because they know success is inevitable.
It would help if the Mavs weren’t injured. It would help if the Mavs weren’t insulted. It would help if the Mavs weren’t injured some more. But they are. They are. And they are.