Monday means “The Come Up” -- and with a shortened week due to the All-Star break, the next 48 hours will show those who closely follow this team who exactly is down to bunker up as opposed to who’s down to party and cash a check. It’s a tough mental test and requires enormous focus. And it go a 'lil summin like this:
This is how it should be done
Remember the last game Dallas played before the All-Star break last year? That was a true exhibition of mental toughness and the will to win. It was just that it was Boston that showed it. Here’s what Paul Pierce said after the game:
"It can go one of two ways. The coach is gone in the last game before the All-Star break, you can pack it in. But this group is very competitive. We're going to fight.''
With just over two minutes left in the third, Dirk had just scored his 31st point. He was killing KG, who had just gone to the bench with a tech and his fifth personal, and Doc Rivers had just gotten ejected with his two technicals. The Mavs were up nine against a tired team that was on the second night of a back-to-back (they’d beaten New Orleans the night before) on the Thursday before the All-Star break.
That’s a recipe for a mail-in if ever there was one, but that Boston team didn’t really get down like that. Pierce went for 18 in the fourth and Dallas lost 99-92. So why dredge all that up now? Because that’s something the Mavs can use to fuel these last two games.
I have a hard time believing a team that has guys like Dirk, J Kidd and JET isn’t interested in fighting. That week off is going to be a whole lot more fun going into it with two wins than it will be having lost six of seven. These next two games starting Monday at Golden State will show everyone if this cast of characters has collectively “packed it in.”
48-hour gut check
We saw Golden State a week ago. Monta Ellis careered but Dallas still won 110-101. The Warriors have only won nine times at home and they’re struggling badly right now having lost their last eight. It’s extremely important that the Mavs put away a bad team early so they can get their key guys some rest before Tuesday night’s match-up against Denver. That game is what is known as a “scheduling loss.”
Denver is a tough place to play for a number of reasons. The obvious is that the Nuggets are really good there, having only lost four times all season on their home floor. It’s a tough place to play on the second night of a back-to-back as it is, especially considering the thin air combined with the aggressive style of play Denver is so adept at employing at the Pepsi Center. These dudes take it to you.
The Nuggets will be well-rested, having not seen action since a Saturday night loss at Utah the night after beating the Lakers on their floor. They’ll also want to avenge the 104-96 loss they suffered to the Mavs in Denver on Dec. 27. Dallas will be mentally and physically tired and one day away from a week away from hoops with a schedule loaded with celebrity bashes in their own backyard.
It’s an easy game to lose. They’ll be expected to lose. The schedule shrugs its shoulders and says “too bad.” But it’s also a unique opportunity for a team that a lot of folks are thinking has very little left in the tank for the remainder of this season. It can go one of two ways over the next 48. They can pack it in or they can fight. It’ll be a chance to see just how competitive these guys really are.