That huge farting noise you heard last night wasn't Mark Cuban sitting on a whoopee cushion, it was the sound of the air going out of the Warriors playoff fantasy balloon.
In a game that featured sloppy ballhandling, poor shooting, and bad behavior by our beloved hometown cagers, the Dallas Mavericks regained their basketball footing and reclaimed the psychological advantage in their opening-round playoff series with the Warriors.
The Dubs started the game riding a huge wave of emotion following their impressive 97-85 victory in game 1 of the series, but played sloppy ball in the first half and stumbled badly in the second half en route to a demoralizing, if not embarrassing 112-99 loss last night in game 2. Not only did the Warriors play poorly, committing 24 turnovers (to only 9 assists) and shooting an anemic 20 percent from the three-point line, but they completely blew their emotional cool, losing both Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson to ejections before it was all said and done.
A loss in game 2 was not unexpected. The Warriors, the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, are basically playing with house money in their first playoff appearance in 13 years. The Mavericks are the top seed in the West and finished the season with the best record in basketball. On paper, the Warriors should just be happy to still be playing basketball this season.
Stephen Jackson displays his much-practiced perp walk as teammate Matt Barnes leads him into the locker room after Jackson was ejected from the game. Hey, at least he stayed out of the stands this time. Photo from espn.com.
But this isn't any ordinary first round series. These two teams have significant history and a growing legacy of bad blood. Warriors coach Don Nelson essentially built the current Mavericks squad before handing the reigns to current coach Avery Johnson and coming to the Warriors by way of a short-lived Hawai'ian retirement. As part of this awkward transition, Nelson and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban find themselves legal adversaries in a dispute over how much money the Mavs still owe their former coach. Money is always a potent irritant.
Then there's the fact that despite being a 60+-win team for the last two years, the Mavericks just can't seem to beat the lowly Warriors. Before last night, the Warriors had beaten the Mavs in seven of their last eight meetings, including all four games this year. That's got to bug the crap out of a team like the Mavericks, who put up 67 wins this year while crushing everybody in their path -- except for the Warriors. After Sunday's game 1 loss in Dallas, you could almost hear Avery Johnson looking skyward and shouting "Khaaaaaaaaaannnnn" in frustration.
That Dallas frustration manifested itself in the final regular season meeting between the two teams on April 17. In that game, things got chippy between Davis and Dallas defensive stopper Greg Buckner, and the two players had to be separated. Turns out that was just the warm-up act for game 2.