Monday, March 05, 2007

Mavericks about to find out what "pressure" really means

The Dallas Mavericks are well on their way to one of the great regular seasons in NBA history and arguably the best regular season any Dallas sports team has ever had. After an 0-4 start, the Mavs seem unable to lose, mounting an unbelievable 50-9 record so far. Local sports talkers and writers are quickly running out of superlatives to describe this team.

And rightly so. Those of us who remember the completely failed 90s should absolutely revel in what this team has turned into.

However, none of this triumph means anything if there isn't a Championship parade here in June. No one knows this better than Avery Johnson and his boys.

I submit to you that this incredible regular season, while glorious for everyone involved, is going to result in the most intense pressure possible on our little Mavs come playoff time. After choking away a 2-0 lead to Miami last summer, this entire season has been aimed at getting back and finishing the job.

A fact which has become lost on exactly no one.

How big a target is going to be on this team's back come April? How much national media scrutiny will these guys be under? How many times are they going to have to answer questions about their inglorious gag-a-roo, or this year's attempt at redemption?

Johnson has the team on a mission, no question about it. He appears to realize what this thing is really all about, and seems to have the team realizing it as well. It's not wins and losses this year, it's playing the game correctly. It's learning to put games away, to withstand the inevitable opponent's third quarter run, to do the little things that make the difference down the stretch, to stand up in the spotlight. It's about winning playoff basketball games.

This is great fun to watch, but it's interesting to step back and see the bigger picture. The choke in Miami last year has stayed with the national media, and not many outside Dallas seem to think the Mavs have the toughness to overcome it.

We shall see. A championship is the only thing that will truly legitimize this franchise and its stars. They seem to know that. I can't wait to see them really put to the test. It's almost time.

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