PORTLAND, Ore. – The Mavs considered Game 6 at the Rose Garden a must-win.
That’s partially because they didn’t want to take any chances in a winner-take-all game against Portland. It’s also because they wanted the best possible chance to beat L.A. in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Mavs knew before tipoff that the Lakers had closed out the Hornets, meaning Kobe and Co. would get a weekend of rest before the beginning of the second round. That increased the importance of finishing off Portland and preventing 38-year-old Jason Kidd and the rest of the veteran Mavs from further taxing their bodies in the first round.
“This was kind of our Game 7,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We didn’t want to play again Saturday. Get Kidd a couple of days of rest before we go in a tough environment in L.A. We definitely talked about it before the game, that this was our Game 7, and that’s the way both teams played.”
Nowitzki stressed the importance of trying to steal Game 1 at the Staples Center. He’s absolutely right: Phil Jackson’s teams are 48-0 in series when they win the opener.