The NBA Playoffs are underway, and the phrase Home Sweet Home is resonating loud and clear in the Association this year. With home teams going a combined 7-0 through the first seven games of the postseason, the Dallas Mavericks have done themselves a nice favor by playing their way to the Western Conference's No. 2 seed.
Dallas began its 10th straight postseason with a 100-94 win over the rival San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. And while beating the Spurs, the No. 7 seed in the West, may seem somewhat ho-hum after beating them in five games in last year's playoffs, looking at how the Mavs got there makes it all the more impressive.
The Mavs seemed to play bigger, out-rebounding the Spurs, 45-37, and working harder to get to the line. This isn't your older brother's Mavericks. The be buggaboo of the Don Nelson and even to some degree the Avery Johnson Mavericks was that the team was a soft, jump-shooting squad whose legs eventually would ware down by the 4th quarter. That hasn't been this team's M.O. for a while now. And now they might just have a chance to do something about it when it actually matters.
Dirk Nowitzki led all scores with 36 points, with an unreal 12-of-14 from the floor and 12-of-12 from the free throw line. The Big German has had big games in the playoffs before, but with the shots Dirk was throwing at the rim tonight, he might as well have been blindfolded for a chunk of them. Flailing, off-balance, guarded tighter than the White House, and Dirk still managed to get the ball in the hoop.
Just as importantly, Dirk's posse showcased important performances across the board. There is no need to cross your fingers to hope Josh Howard can make a second-half basket with this team. The squad has been a more even-keel organization since the big February trade that sent Howard to Washington in exchange for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, both of whom reached double-figures against the Spurs on Sunday.
Jason Kidd finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double, with 13 points and 11 assists - including a big swing-it-around pass to Jason Terry for a wide open dagger of a three-pointer late in the 4th quarter.
And while there is still much playoff basketball left to be played, for the first time since the Mavs bested the Spurs en route to the 2006 NBA Finals, this team is playing to a level capable of taking them on another deep playoff run.