It doesn't matter if it's an October preseason game or Game 5 of the NBA Finals for Brian Cardinal. The 11-year veteran who normally resides at the end of the Dallas Mavericks bench brings his lunch pail to work every day.
"My marching orders are the same," Cardinal said. "Just go out there and play hard, knock down open shots and move the ball. And just try to make plays, whether it's on offense or defense. Essentially be ready for whenever the situation arises when I go in."
Affectionately known as "The Custodian," Cardinal did a yeoman's labor in Thursday night's 112-103 win that pushed the Mavs to the brink of a title. Dallas leads the Heat, 3-2, with Game 6 on Sunday night at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena.
After logging a grand total of one minute and seven seconds in Games 2 and 3 -- Cardinal didn't play in the Finals opener -- the 6-foot-8 bruiser out of Purdue has been part of the rotation in the last two outings spelling Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler in short doses. Cardinal, though, didn't do much in Game 4.
The Heat, Dwyane Wade in particular, sure felt Cardinal's presence in Game 5. Driving to the basket in the first quarter, Wade ran into a Cardinal roadblock in the lane. While a blocking foul was called on Dallas' bald janitor, the collision was significant for more than just the whistle and Wade's two free throws.
Miami's leading scorer in the Finals suffered the hip contusion on the fender-bender, and Wade was in and out of the game from that point on. Cardinal also picked up two more blocking fouls in his stint of 9:37, along with knocking down a key 3-pointer in the first quarter.
"He's really a unique player, so resourceful defensively, always around the ball," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's always going to be there taking charges and he's always going to be there. He's going to be making contact with people.
"I thought the block that was called on him [against Wade] may have been the wrong call. I thought he was in position. I thought Wade came right through his chest. He's going to be there, and when he's on the floor we become a more active defensive team for sure."
If the box score only had a category for floor burns…
"That's my role, just to go out there and play hard," said Cardinal, who finished with a playoff-high four points. "That's easy to do when you have guys in this locker room that will do anything to win."