The only reason they can’t take charge is that this will be, without question, their hardest game of the season.
“They’re going to come in here with as much force as they’ve played with all season,” coach Rick Carlisle said of the Spurs. “We know that. That’s the No. 1 thing we’ve got prepare for.
“It’s no secret. Teams that lose games in the playoffs become desperate. And so that’s why we’ve got to keep a desperate mind-set ourselves. We cannot allow there to be any kind of letup here.”
Bracing for it is fine. But whatever the Mavericks think they are ready for, it’s going to be a lot more than that.
The Spurs didn’t win 62 games and get the No. 1 seed in the league by not being capable of simply outworking, out-executing and out-everything-ing their opponents.
That’s what the Mavericks will have to survive in the odd 3:30 p.m. start.
“Obviously, we’ve had great road trips before and come home and kind of laid an egg,” Devin Harris said. “I think everybody is a little worried about that.
“But I think if we’re worried, that means we’re thinking about it and hopefully we can focus in on that.”
Dirk Nowitzki was the first to broach the subject of the Mavericks’ lukewarm home performances this season. Anything that is less than scalding in Game 3 probably won’t be good enough.
And he believes the Mavericks must correct something that went wrong in both games at San Antonio.
“We’d love to actually get a better start,” he said Friday. “If you look at their regular season, they’re a great first- and third-quarter team. That’s when they run up on people. They usually run it a hundred miles an hour. We got to be ready for it. And they’re going to play with even more force on both ends, and we got to be ready for that first hit.
“Both teams had over two days to sit on it. Pop’s going to be hard on them, and they’re going to be fired up to come here and get the home court right back. We understand that win means nothing the other day if we lose tomorrow.”
The good news is that the Mavericks no longer face any phobias about the Spurs. That 10-game losing streak against them is gone, and so is any feeling that the Spurs might have had their number.
What they did best was fix a few problem areas that were obvious in the Spurs’ four regular-season victories over the Mavericks. Priority No. 1 was not allowing San Antonio guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to both have huge games. They did in Game 1, and the Spurs won. Ginobili did in Game 2, but Parker was held in check and the Mavericks won.
“We felt coming into the series there were three or four things we needed to do much better than we had in the past against them,” Carlisle said. “We’d lost a bunch of games in a row. And it started with defensively doing a better job in transition. They had been killing us in transition.
“And look, when you’re talking about transition defense, you’re talking about Parker, Ginobili —and [Patty] Mills chopped us up a couple of games. And they got a lot of guys that are really good players. They play at a really high level as far as their intensity and how hard they do things. You can’t only match it, you got to work to exceed it, and that’s hard to do.”
It will never be harder than Saturday. In their hardest game of season, Mavericks bracing for focused, ticked-off Spurs | Dallas Morning News