Rick Carlisle showers praise on players

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Rick Carlisle is 2-for-2 in taking his teams to the conference finals. He guided the Detroit Pistons and then the Indiana Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals, but fell short each time of the ultimate goal.

He gets his second shot in three seasons to put the Dallas Mavericks back in the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2006. Carlisle certainly wasn't immune to the skepticism surrounding the Mavs entering this postseason, a belief that this club would not be able to get out of the first round for a second consecutive season.

When asked what it meant to him to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in six games and advance to play the Los Angeles Lakers, Carlisle put the spotlight on the players.

"I've been around this a long time and my job is to facilitate an opportunity for these guys to win," Carlisle said. "I have grown to love these guys so much and what they stand for and what they've been through over a period of time that extends long before I got here. These are good people and they're great basketball players."

Carlisle got the Mavs to the second round in his first season, but the team's first-round series win in five games over the San Antonio Spurs is largely discounted because Manu Ginobili was injured and didn't play. Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets went up 3-0 on Dallas in the second round and won the series in five.

For Dallas to get back to the conference finals, it'll have to defeat the two-time champs and do so by winning at least one at the Staples Center where the Mavs lost their only game there this season in a 110-82 unraveling on March 31.

"It's going to be hard," Carlisle said. "They had their stretch of struggles, but they're back on track. Both teams will be rested. We're looking forward to it. We know how good they are, but our team has a strong belief in itself. We know we're going to have to win on the road at some point in the series and we've been a good road team for two years.

"That bodes well, but it doesn't guarantee us anything and we know that."